Harry Spitz About
Metallic Wave Reliefs by Harry Spitz
The evolution of my recent relief works.
In 2006 I started working on a series of painted plywood reliefs. To jazz things up a bit I started adding metal leaf. The metal leaf seemed a little too bright and shiny to me so I brushed on chemicals to tarnish the metal. The resulting effects were breathtaking but flaky and unstable. Attempts to preserve these effects with lacquer ruined some of the pieces. The other problem with the metal leaf was that the tarnishing chemicals often ate right through the metal leaf. It became apparent that the ephemeral metal leaves were just a little too delicate for my purpose so I realized that I was going to have to make the switch to sheet metal.
With the first few pieces I continued the idea of tarnishing the metal but then I decided to texture the metal in order to give the tarnish a better grip on the surface. I then realized that the texture was a fine effect on its own so I decided to put the toxic chemicals aside. These pieces will tarnish slowly over time on their own and I embrace this idea of change. When I first started with the reliefs I decided to keep my decisions simple and use older works as references for forms and visual vocabulary so that I could concentrate on the idea of developing the tortured plywood relief. I then decided to use my stored kayaking experiences as the foundation for these works. At first the subject matter was about kayakers bouncing through the waves, the feeling of paddling in a group with various paddlers in different boats rising and falling, the waves light and lively, fierce and threatening, rolling and crashing. Soon it became clear that all that I needed as subject matter was the waves themselves. The push and pull of the relief shapes is one of the most important aspects of these works. I like to use the relief to play with perspective. I want the forward waves to recede and the background waves to push forward. There is an intimacy with the waves that kayakers experience. Waves sneak up behind us or slam us from the side. When I paddle in lively water I watch the waves in front of me, I watch the waves coming at me from the side. The waves march in rows and by watching them I can anticipate what they will do when the reach me. I can get ready to brace or shift my weight. I don__™t like paddling in calm flat water. I like the bouncy feeling of flying on the waves. These are the waves of my metal clad tortured plywood reliefs.
Harry Spitz received a BFA from the Philadelphia College of Art. He received a National Endowment for the Arts award in 1978. He most recently performed at the Governors Island Figment Arts Event by making 100 ft by 50 ft field marker chalk parking lot drawings. http://gravenimages.blogspot.com/ The Metallic reliefs come from direct experience with waves from years of kayaking, the assemblages of Kurt Schwitters and a love of the work of the great Greenlandic Artist Aron fra Kangeq
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