2006-12-15 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Modern Art Foundry
Commentary by Susan Hartenstein

Modern Art Foundry – Part Three: Metal Casting
Rockaway Artists Alliance

Commentary by
Susan Hartenstein

Last week we left the casting process at the point of retouching the seams and making any necessary changes in the hollow positive wax pattern. After approval of the pattern by the artist the gates are attached to it. Gates are wax tubes that are the routes through which the molten metal is poured and the gas escapes.

Now, the lost wax casting can be done. The basic technique for this was originally developed some 5000 years ago. For this process a hard shell, or “investment,” is built around the wax sculpture. Modern Art Foundry can make plaster/silica and ceramic shell investments. Once the investment is built the wax is burned out (hence, the term “lost wax” casting) and the mold cured. Thus, a negative mold is formed, into which the molten metal from the foundry’s furnaces is poured. Modern Art Foundry specializes in casting statuary bronze, but also casts silicon bronze, other bronze alloys, aluminum and other non-ferrous metals.

In the foundry’s finishing department the casting is cleaned, usually with high-pressured water. The specialized finishing that follows may involve chasing with hand tools, grinding, sanding, polishing with air and electric tools, welding or any other of a variety of techniques chosen to accomplish the artist’s vision. A large sculpture may now need to be assembled and the armature fitted together to meet installation specifications.

After the finished casting is approved by the artist the patina or coloring stage is next. Patinas are achieved through the chemical reaction between the metal and a variety of chemicals applied to that metal. The color produced varies according to the chemicals and pigments used by the patineur. Different combinations are used by different foundries and the exact formulas are highly guarded secrets. This stage, states Modern Art Foundry, “often requires the greatest interaction between artist and artisan. Working with countless chemicals, waxes, hot and cold application methods, along with a limitless amount of alternative approaches. It is often the patination that separates a bronze casting from any other material. Our patina tradition is hands-on, from basic formulas for traditional patinas, to polychrome patinas, and experimental offerings.” Following the patina stage, a wax coating can be added to preserve it.

The foundry offers services to follow the completion of the patina stage. These include mounting, delivery, continuing maintenance and metal conservation consultation.

The second of Modern Art Foundry’s primary services (casting and finishing sculpture is the first) is commemorative design. This was begun to answer an expressed need from civic groups, individuals and organizations wanting to commission a memorial for a person or event.

The foundry can and has fulfilled and coordinated the multitude of tasks required to accomplish such a project for everything from a tablet to a bust to a larger than life statue.

The third service offered is maintenance and conservation. Modern Art Foundry’s highly skilled staff has restored, conserved and maintained works of art in a variety of sizes and locations; from a variety of eras and styles, American and European, that even includes Tiffany-style lamps.

I hope that these three columns have provided a useful, informative introduction to the process of casting metal sculpture and to the Modern Art Foundry. The beautiful, dramatic intricacies of this story would require many more columns to tell. I advise those of you who have an interest in learning more, to contact the foundry for a tour. It is quite exciting to see the journey to a metal sculpture, from original to rubber mold to wax pattern to the permanence and grandeur of the bronze fulfillment of an artist’s vision. Visit: www.modernartfo undry.co , phone: 718 728-2030, e-mail: info@modernartfoun dry.com . There’s nothing like seeing it “in the flesh.”

“MULTICULTURAL ,” a Rockaway Artists Alliance group exhibition, showcases work of six RAA members born outside the USA. It displays the divergent threads that are woven together to form the rich tapestry that is RAA. The exhibit is located in the rotunda of the Citibank office building in Long Island City, One Court Square, (44th Drive and Hunter Street) and is on view into January during office hours Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

For information please call 917 306-8729. Participating artists: Esther Grillo, Anne Hourigan, Christian Le Gars, George Marian, Geoff Rawling and Yuri Yurov. Curated by Sophia Skeans.

RAA’s next exhibition is “Where Flowers Bloom in Winter,” January 20-February 18, 2007. Opening reception: January 21, 1-3 p.m. For information and directions please call the RAA office at 718 474-0861 or visit: www.rockawayartistsalliance.org.

RAA’s Adult-Seniors Painting Class: Thursdays 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. in sTudio 6 Gallery in Fort Tilden. Open to students at all levels. Teacher: Geoff Rawling. Supplies and materials included. Cost: $10 per senior, $15 per adult.


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