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Art January, 15 2010

Curated Q&A | Sculptor Emil Alzamora

Sculptor Emil Alzamora was born in Lima, Peru in 1975, and raised in Boca Grande, Florida. He studied at Florida State University before moving to the Hudson River Valley to embark on a career in sculpture. Alzamora has been there since 1998.

Alzamora is currently showing at Artbreak Gallery in Brooklyn (195 Grand Street). Random Mutations that Work runs through February 2010

I spoke with Alzamora about material, technique, and the feeling of exhibiting new work.

The interview, along with a full tour of the exhibition, is found after the jump.

CM: You studied art history, as well as fine art, how does this background play a roll in your sculpture?

EA: Art history can be fascinating to anyone, artist or not. It is kind of like being a physicist and learning about Newton and Einstein. It has given me a good sense of perspective on where art/sculpture has been and where it has to potential to go. In general though, I am more interested in History than Art History. Style and form are important but at this point I think big ideas and concepts are the driving force behind the best art today. As for studying fine art, it helped me to focus my drawing interests more toward sculpture and to have a better understanding of the role art can play and what type of legitimate services it can provide.

CM: Using several techniques (slipcast, handbuilt, bronze), what are the challenges of shifting between them? How do you decide what will best achieve your artistic goals for a given piece?

EA: Materials are inseparable from the work. Almost all of my sculptures originate as drawings in my sketchbook (sometimes with intention, other times subconsciously). Often times the materials will be in the back of my mind depending on the type of drawing I am doing. If I’m thinking in terms of large-scale gypsum or bronze, I will be considering how to execute it in the studio. If I am thinking about slip cast ceramic, my drawings will reflect that process, both its advantages and its limitations. Other times I will just draw and then determine what materials best express the idea. I am always looking for new materials to work with in order to expand visual possibilities as each new material brings with it a new set of problems to solve and a new set of aesthetics. I also like to mix it up a bit. I will get bored of a material after a while so it is nice to be able to switch mediums; it keeps me on my toes.

CM: Does material play a roll in where you’d like the pieces to live? Inside? Outside? I’m always curious of a sculptors desire when it comes to lasting placement of a finished work.

EA: Absolutely. And anyone who says no to that hasn’t placed too many works outdoors. It is a volatile environment and there are few things that nature like to destroy more than art (artifice). If people want outdoor sculpture, they have to pay for it or accept an expiration date. At this point I really am only comfortable with cast metals (bronze, stainless, aluminum) for outdoor works, unless it is under the cover of a patio roof. That allows for a bit more range in materials. For indoor sculpture, anything goes really.

CM: What do exhibitions do for you as an artist? What can you learn from viewing your own work assembled, reading reviews, or observing audiences?

EA: Exhibiting my work is very cathartic. Nothing wraps up a session like putting it together in a gallery for public scrutiny. There really is no more fiddling or fussing with a piece once it has been sent out on its own like that. I see the works as children in a way, once they are exhibited they are mature, and depending in the reactions they get, that’s how good a job you did parenting them into fully functional works of art. It is usually a very nice experience for me as I put so much into the making of the pieces, to be able to show them and to have people respond emotionally to them is really satisfying. It also clears the slate for the next batch of work to come along which is really the best part of it all; thinking about what I might do next is wildly entertaining.

CM: Finally, how much attention do you personally put into an installation? Are you very hands on? Or trusting of the gallery?

EA: It depends on the gallery I am working with and the resolution I feel about a particular group of work being exhibited. I am always open to gallery input as I respect and admire their position, and they are often very knowledgeable in this regard. Sometimes I get too wrapped up in each piece and I fail to see the whole. A fresh perspective is a very nice thing. So it is a bit of a back and forth. Some things I feel strongly about and make it known, but I am not a person who is set in his ways either. I welcome better ideas, where ever they come from.

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