Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sculptures Designed to Be Used by People

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sculptures Designed to Be Used by People

Article excerpt

WADE Sand & Gravel has three things Zach Coffin needs: Boulders, cranes and space to play with them.

The Atlanta-born sculptor has been something of an artist-in-residence at the Birmingham limestone and dolemite quarry since he arrived in town two months ago.

There, with fire, rock, iron and steel, he creates large-scale, interactive, outdoor art that redefines relationships between man and machine. "I'm fascinated with industry," Coffin said. "It's the backbone of our civilization." His previous works, mostly in steel, have been installed in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta. They are so large that they must be built, moved, stored and installed with a battery of cranes and trucks. With weights of 10,000 pounds and up, they sell for about $35,000 apiece. Coffin, 28, arrived in Birmingham from San Francisco in his beat-up blue pickup truck with 800 pounds of tools, his dog Tarmac and a promise from quarry owner Robin Wade. Since then, Coffin has started three new pieces at the quarry, spurring interest from the Alabama School of Fine Arts and the Birmingham Museum of Art. A yet-to-be-titled piece to be installed on the ASFA campus this spring involves four limestone boulders connected with a lot of steel and enough cables to hold the last one off the ground. It won't fall, Coffin promises, it just looks like it might. It's precisely such potential energy that drives Coffin's work. At the heart is the play between motion and stillness, a fascination with arrested or suggested motion and the entrance of human activity into that equation. His art demands to be climbed on, touched, jumped on and manipulated. The invitation to play on a grand scale separates his work from pieces confined to museums. Works-in-progress at the Wade studio include a bouncing steel bench on springs and "Antelumpen," three abstract steel antelope heads on 18-foot street light poles. "They will constantly be in motion," he said, "either by human force or the wind will kick them around." Whatever its final form, the ASFA piece will be the kind kids (and adults) can climb on and discover - not just once, but day after day. …

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