Sothebys Tendencias, Beyond Limits - October 2009

(English translation from original Spanish)

1. Has the context in which the sculpture will be exhibited conditioned the original idea and approach of your project for Chatsworth?

The work belongs to a series of sculptures that I'm making in Spain, and was created before the invitation to exhibit at this year’s Beyond Limits exhibition at Chatsworth. I’m pleased that the team at Sotheby's has chosen an excellent placement for the work, particularly since I had no involvement with the choice of location. It's an interesting process to see other people place your work, and their perception of the work's relationship to a specific environment. Ultimately, I envision my work in a variety of contexts -- from the interior of an industrial space to the gardens of Chatsworth.

2. What is the main challenge when you work on a monumental scale?

In terms of describing work as monumental, I would distinguish between size and scale, and define the scale of a sculpture as its size in relation to the space it becomes part of. Scale is one of the most important questions, regardless of the size of the work. I generally conceive of my large-scale works in an interior space, and when the sculpture is placed outdoors the visual experience of the work changes: nature has a way of dramatically reducing the scale of a work. Although the power of a large sculpture may come from an initial response to its size, in some cases its size is gratuitous. Once its impact fades, some work becomes simply a large object. When the scale is successful, take for example Giacometti’s City Square (1948), the size can be actually quite small yet the work feels monumental in scale. And what’s even more interesting is that just because a work is successful in a small format doesn’t guarantee that when it is enlarged it will still maintain its strength and integrity. This is the most challenging aspect of working in a large format.

3. How would you define Chaos Mundaka, your sculpture for Chatsworth? (We would like you to explain us all the details of your artwork: inspiration, materials, as well as any other significant details in relation to the initial design of the project and its development that you consider appropriate)

I do not find my work easy to define, as I don't think of it in terms of a narrative. It often feels as if I'm constructing or composing something that describes what had previously been invisible: perhaps a part of some memory, but not one that initially takes a visual or tangible shape.

Certain materials inevitably evoke certain responses, which is why I’m interested in working in various mediums. Chaos Mundaka is in bronze - its sturdiness is practical, and I associate it with something lasting and heroic. Perhaps there is a physical way in which sculpture, particularly in bronze, expresses permanence and stoicism. Bronze has the potential to convey beauty and subtlety as well as power. I also appreciate the changing nature of the material – for example, the organic process of a patina going from black to green. It’s not a static material.

4. Is there a link between artistic merit and its market value?

I don't think about market value when creating or looking at work. I value art for its authenticity and perhaps - these words come to mind -for it's mystery, rigor and magic. Resonance is another important word: something that has a lasting emotional, visual or intellectual impact.

5. What is the best advice you have ever received?

The best advice came was I was in my early 20’s from the important art dealer Richard Bellamy who had a gallery called Oil and Steel near my studio in Tribeca, downtown in NYC. He said that the weight of the form should come from what you create, not from the inherent weight of the material. It was criticism that helped me understand something crucial.

6. Your work evokes a dialogue with past masters of the modernist tradition. Who has been your greatest influence?

I've been influenced by everything I've seen in one way or another. Each work is a unique dialogue with all of these things, some of which I'm unaware of. I have been influenced by historically important and fully recognized artists and although rarely, a more obscure artists work has had a lasting impact. One that comes to mind is Charles Despiau. There was a small work of his in terracotta at the Metropolitan Museum in NY years ago, which I was very impressed with, and frequently went to see. What I find very interesting is that I never saw another work of his that hit me so well, but that one small head was terrific and remains in my thoughts 30 year later. I spent a great deal of time at the Met looking at Manet and Degas. I'm extremely influenced by their ability to create provocative and highly intelligent compositions.

I was recently looking at images of several artists work that I had not thought about for a while. I was once again struck by the discipline and clarity of De Kooning's painting Excavation, and several of Rauschenberg's Combines. It has been moments since the beginning of abstract expressionism and we're still trying to grasp it. The term 'modernist' seems ironic to me: we have moved away from a focus on conceptual content through compositional intelligence, quality, aesthetics and form to a lighter exploration of representational imagery, restricted within a currently fashionable academic process. So often paragraphs of texts attempt to help the viewer to access work that is otherwise vapid or insipid, or simply contrived.

7. How and when did your links with the Basque Country start?

Visiting San Sebastian years ago: I found it a sublime place. There is a genuine and widespread love of sculpture. I was only buying a coffee when I found myself in a discussion about the work of the Basque sculptors, Otieza and Chillida. This rarely happens to me, and I felt quite at home.

8. Why did you choose a foundry located in Eibar to cast your sculptures?

Alfa Arte, in Eibar, invited me to visit the foundry to discuss a project. The artisans and management are extremely capable and likable, and I was struck by their passion for art. I also enjoy the restaurant, Chalcha, where we often have lunch; it serves great Campillo, Pimiento Verde Padron and Jamon Iberico.

9. You seem fascinated by many aspect of Spain, how did this come about?

Although the San Sebastian trip was the catalyst, I'm equally taken with the Prado. Its sustained level of quality is extraordinary. In my childhood home my parents had a book on Bosch's work, which I'd frequently study. Seeing Bosch's masterpiece, Garden of Earthly Delight, for the first time in person, was perhaps a perfect experience. It's hard to articulate why one develops a deep connection with one culture or another, and the attempt to encapsulate something so vast, rich and probably subconscious is difficult. I just know that I feel restless when I'm Spain, which is something that I'm comfortable with. In other words, never bored.

10. What is your main interest as an artist?

To continue working.