The corten zoo of Fernando Suárez Reguera

A follow-up to yesterday’s posting “Three artists” (Franz Marc, Odilon Redon, Dale Chihuly): more art posted by Joelle Stepien Bailard on Facebook. Works by Spanish sculptor Fernando Suárez Reguera, in particular some of his corten steel animal figures, simultaneously impressive and charming.

Four from the steel menagerie:


(#1) Head of Elephant II


(#2) Silverback I


(#3) Giraffe II


(#4) Troya (the Trojan Horse)

(The sculptures are at more or less human scale, in the 4-6 ft range.)

But is it (fine) art? If I presented these photos to you without any information about them, you might well take the objects in them to be made of woven strips of wood. In which case, you would then be tempted to characterize these objects as “folk art” or even as (“merely”) very carefully executed “crafts” projects — because you would view them as primarily utilitarian or decorative rather than purely aesthetic. Realizing the designs in a challenging material not usually employed for pedestrian purposes, however, can move things to the realm of fine art. I find this puzzling.

The artist. From the My Modern Met site, “Majestic Wildlife and Human Sculptures Made of Wrought Wire and Bronze” by Kristine Mitchell on 2/19/16:

(#5)

Artist Fernando Suárez Reguera [born 1966; his website (in Spanish) here] creates stunning wire sculptures that tap into the imagination by presenting familiar forms stripped down to their bare bones. His collection of humanoid and animal figures are elegant in their construction, yet present a unique outlook on the conventional form. Presented simply, composed of just their basic structural components, Reguera’s figures are somehow still captivating in their final form. Rooted in a sense of realism, Reguera creates fascinating structures that explore the boundaries of contemporary sculpture work.

The formally educated artist [1994 fine arts degree, with specialization in sculpture, from Complutense University of Madrid] works and lives in Madrid, Spain where he produces his intricate pieces out of wrought iron, bronze, and occasionally resin. With a distinct, scientific feel, Reguera’s portfolio features human figures with roots sprouting out their feet, and others with tendrils snaking up and out in the place of a head. His wildlife sculptures are similar in their approach: exquisitely detailed with an attention to anatomical correctness that is apparent in every piece. Striking a balance between the sculptures’ free flowing appearance with his use of hard, unyielding material, Reguera continually produces visually intriguing artwork.

The material. From Wikipedia:

Weathering steel, often referred to by the genericized trademark COR-TEN steel and sometimes written without the hyphen as corten steel, is a group of steel alloys which were developed to eliminate the need for painting, and form a stable rust-like appearance after several years exposure to weather.

… The name COR-TEN refers to the two distinguishing properties of this type of steel: corrosion resistance and tensile strength.

… Weathering steel is popularly used in outdoor sculptures for its rustic antique appearance. One example is the large Chicago Picasso sculpture, which stands in the plaza of the Daley Center Courthouse in Chicago, which is also constructed of weathering steel.


(#6) Chicago Picasso in its early days

Other examples include numerous works by Richard Serra; the “Alamo” sculpture in Manhattan, NY; the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York; The Angel of the North, Gateshead; and Broadcasting Tower at Leeds Beckett University.

And at Stanford… Though we seem to have no Suárez Regueras, we do have a Deborah Butterfield that looks like it was made of driftwood, but is in fact cast in bronze.

From “New Contemporary Sculptures for Stanford”, a press release of August 1999:

  (#7)

Deborah Butterfield‘s untitled bronze horse [in the Center’s lobby], the loan of Burt and Deedee McMurtry, is delighting visitors to the Cantor Art Center. Butterfield has explored the mare as her subject for over twenty years. Although the horse throughout history has symbolized power, this particular role was not of interest to the artist, who uses the animal as a surrogate ego and vehicle to express her feelings. Untitled was cast in bronze from an original model made in driftwood. The technique used to make the sculpture is especially noteworthy for its convincing simulation of the texture, shape, and color of the wood.

From her Wikipedia page:

Initially constructing her sculptures using natural materials such as mud, clay and sticks in the 1970s, Butterfield has since moved to using metal in her work. In 1979 she began using reclaimed materials such as found steel and scrap metal. For the past 20 plus years, Butterfield has been using bronze casts of “stray, downed pieces of wood.”

Butterfield carefully selects pieces of wood that outline the form and gesture of the horse. The wood pieces are then cast in bronze, burning the wood away.

One Response to “The corten zoo of Fernando Suárez Reguera”

  1. [BLOG] Some Saturday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky takes a look at the remarkable steel-banded sculpture of Fernando Suárez Reguera, and of sculptors like […]

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