Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Conversation With Sculptor Robert Sanabria


Continuum: defined as a part of a whole which cannot be distinguished from neighboring parts except by arbitrary division. Artist Robert Sanabria evoked this meaningful word to name his sculpture, which is housed in the GW Permanent Collection, administered by The Luther Brady Art Gallery. As one looks at the sinuous lines of brazed metal in the sculpture—you can truly see no end and no beginning to the material.
         Sanabria is a retired army lieutenant colonel. Aside from dabbling in writing (he has two published books), he sculpts. He works primarily with metal—using the difficult copper brazing technique. This technique makes strong joints with the metal. In our correspondence with the artist, he further explains his work and inspiration.

Robert Sanabria, Continuum, bronze on copper, 18" x 16" x 20"

Gallery Assistant Hannah Spector: In our permanent collection, we have your sculpture, Continuum. Can you describe where the inspiration for this piece came from?
Robert Sanabria: My sculpture, Continuum, was the direct result of a visit to the studio of the late Italian-American sculptor, Harry Bertoia (famous for his Diamond Chair). I first became aware of Harry while stationed in Germany during the late 50s and early 60s. Stationed in the Washington DC area a few years later, I discovered that Harry had a sculpture exhibition at Knoll International in Georgetown. Harry was present the day I visited his show. When asked about the possibility of visiting his studio, he suggested I write to set up a date. It was during that subsequent meeting that I first saw his sculpture fabricated in brazed copper tubing, a technique he pioneered.

HS: How were your first attempts with brazing?
RS: My first brazed copper pieces were disasters, due to my inability to join, i.e. braze, the copper tubing without burning holes in it. Eventually I developed the proper touch and proceeded to create larger pieces. Today, I mainly respond to commissions from private, commercial and municipal clients employing Harry’s brazed copper technique. The most recent installation was of a piece entitled, Viento, or wind at the new Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago.

Robert Sanabria, Viento, bronze on copper, 48" x 36" x 45"

HS: When did you decide to pursue a career in art? Do you have any formal training?
RS: I had loved and done art since childhood. Retiring from the Army in the early 70s, I decided to pursue a career as an artist and enrolled first at the Corcoran and eventually received an MFA from the University of Maryland in the late 70s. Throughout that period, in search of a medium to focus on, I tried everything from wood and stone carving to figure modeling to pieces welded and brazed.
  
HS:  How do you split your time between sculpting and writing? Do you have any more books in the works?
RS:  Unless I’m working on a commission with a deadline, I usually write during the morning and work in the studio in the afternoon. At the moment, I’m re-writing a screenplay based on my novel. When that’s finished, if such an undertaking ever is, I will return to writing. A number of people who’ve read the novel have suggested a sequel. I’ve started an attempt to discover whether it’s worth continuing. If not, I’ll abandon it and start anew in a different direction.

HS: It seems as though a lot of your inspiration came from your time in the military (your experiences, etc.). Can you explain that life-changing job as a source of inspiration and also where else do you seek inspiration? 
RS: Apart from the discipline and organizing ability that I assimilated from my military career, it doesn’t inspire my art. Inspiration often comes from simply working with the medium, whatever that happens to be. As a consequence, I often start out with one idea only to have that overtaken by a different idea inspired while working on the first, an event I always welcome. Being involved in a competition can also inspire a concept. In his book, My Life in Sculpture, the late Jacques Lipchitz described the manner in which he “discovers” a concept by making a series of clay miniatures. After the first one, he takes the part of it that appeals to him and tries to incorporate that into the next one. After ten or so of these, he settles on one and works on that to a completion. But even then, after coming back to it a day or so, he invariably makes more changes to improve it. I use the same approach, but usually not in clay. Instead, I often use Styrofoam, which I carve or assemble in pieces, or make small metal models as a point of departure.

HS:  What do you find most rewarding about the sculpture making process, or what is your favorite part?
RS: A large-scale sculpture usually starts out as a maquette, or scale model. It is then handed off to a fabricator or foundry, where it is scaled up to the desired size and finished. In that event, the sculptor’s hand is mostly eliminated, except to sign the piece. I’ve tried to do sculpture that allows me to do most if not all of the work myself. Of course when it isn’t possible to everything myself, I, too, resort to the necessary assistance. In the video, “Private Dreams, Public Art,” on my web site is a good example. The maquette can be seen in the background as I work on the enlargement. The concrete casting is done at a concrete yard, under my watchful eye.
           My favorite part is developing a concept and bringing it to realization and done mostly with my own hands.

       Sanabria’s work is currently on display at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. His wife, Sherry Sanabria, has work on display there as well.

Private Dreams, Public Art, Robert Sanabria

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Covering exhibits at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery and giving you a peek into the Permanent Collection of the George Washington University.

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Howard Hodgkin: Paintings - May 16, 2012

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Conversation With Sculptor Robert Sanabria


Continuum: defined as a part of a whole which cannot be distinguished from neighboring parts except by arbitrary division. Artist Robert Sanabria evoked this meaningful word to name his sculpture, which is housed in the GW Permanent Collection, administered by The Luther Brady Art Gallery. As one looks at the sinuous lines of brazed metal in the sculpture—you can truly see no end and no beginning to the material.
         Sanabria is a retired army lieutenant colonel. Aside from dabbling in writing (he has two published books), he sculpts. He works primarily with metal—using the difficult copper brazing technique. This technique makes strong joints with the metal. In our correspondence with the artist, he further explains his work and inspiration.

Robert Sanabria, Continuum, bronze on copper, 18" x 16" x 20"

Gallery Assistant Hannah Spector: In our permanent collection, we have your sculpture, Continuum. Can you describe where the inspiration for this piece came from?
Robert Sanabria: My sculpture, Continuum, was the direct result of a visit to the studio of the late Italian-American sculptor, Harry Bertoia (famous for his Diamond Chair). I first became aware of Harry while stationed in Germany during the late 50s and early 60s. Stationed in the Washington DC area a few years later, I discovered that Harry had a sculpture exhibition at Knoll International in Georgetown. Harry was present the day I visited his show. When asked about the possibility of visiting his studio, he suggested I write to set up a date. It was during that subsequent meeting that I first saw his sculpture fabricated in brazed copper tubing, a technique he pioneered.

HS: How were your first attempts with brazing?
RS: My first brazed copper pieces were disasters, due to my inability to join, i.e. braze, the copper tubing without burning holes in it. Eventually I developed the proper touch and proceeded to create larger pieces. Today, I mainly respond to commissions from private, commercial and municipal clients employing Harry’s brazed copper technique. The most recent installation was of a piece entitled, Viento, or wind at the new Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago.

Robert Sanabria, Viento, bronze on copper, 48" x 36" x 45"

HS: When did you decide to pursue a career in art? Do you have any formal training?
RS: I had loved and done art since childhood. Retiring from the Army in the early 70s, I decided to pursue a career as an artist and enrolled first at the Corcoran and eventually received an MFA from the University of Maryland in the late 70s. Throughout that period, in search of a medium to focus on, I tried everything from wood and stone carving to figure modeling to pieces welded and brazed.
  
HS:  How do you split your time between sculpting and writing? Do you have any more books in the works?
RS:  Unless I’m working on a commission with a deadline, I usually write during the morning and work in the studio in the afternoon. At the moment, I’m re-writing a screenplay based on my novel. When that’s finished, if such an undertaking ever is, I will return to writing. A number of people who’ve read the novel have suggested a sequel. I’ve started an attempt to discover whether it’s worth continuing. If not, I’ll abandon it and start anew in a different direction.

HS: It seems as though a lot of your inspiration came from your time in the military (your experiences, etc.). Can you explain that life-changing job as a source of inspiration and also where else do you seek inspiration? 
RS: Apart from the discipline and organizing ability that I assimilated from my military career, it doesn’t inspire my art. Inspiration often comes from simply working with the medium, whatever that happens to be. As a consequence, I often start out with one idea only to have that overtaken by a different idea inspired while working on the first, an event I always welcome. Being involved in a competition can also inspire a concept. In his book, My Life in Sculpture, the late Jacques Lipchitz described the manner in which he “discovers” a concept by making a series of clay miniatures. After the first one, he takes the part of it that appeals to him and tries to incorporate that into the next one. After ten or so of these, he settles on one and works on that to a completion. But even then, after coming back to it a day or so, he invariably makes more changes to improve it. I use the same approach, but usually not in clay. Instead, I often use Styrofoam, which I carve or assemble in pieces, or make small metal models as a point of departure.

HS:  What do you find most rewarding about the sculpture making process, or what is your favorite part?
RS: A large-scale sculpture usually starts out as a maquette, or scale model. It is then handed off to a fabricator or foundry, where it is scaled up to the desired size and finished. In that event, the sculptor’s hand is mostly eliminated, except to sign the piece. I’ve tried to do sculpture that allows me to do most if not all of the work myself. Of course when it isn’t possible to everything myself, I, too, resort to the necessary assistance. In the video, “Private Dreams, Public Art,” on my web site is a good example. The maquette can be seen in the background as I work on the enlargement. The concrete casting is done at a concrete yard, under my watchful eye.
           My favorite part is developing a concept and bringing it to realization and done mostly with my own hands.

       Sanabria’s work is currently on display at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. His wife, Sherry Sanabria, has work on display there as well.

Private Dreams, Public Art, Robert Sanabria

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Washington, District of Columbia, United States
"Found In Collection" or simply "FIC" is the way many museums classify the more mysterious items in their possession that have little or no documentation. Here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery of the George Washington University, we do keep extensive records of our collection, but some of the items we come across in academic buildings or our own storage can leave us wondering. This blog is an effort to showcase some of the more curious examples and their stories, and to provide a glimpse of the great variety of art pieces within the collection. To learn more about the Brady Gallery's history, recent exhibitions, or the George Washington University, take a look at the links below.

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