Cultured Magazine

Fall 2015

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In order to build her new 19-foot sculpture—set to debut in front of Princeton University's recently built Andlinger Center for Energy and Environment this November—Ursula von Rydingsvard had to find a space big enough to house the towering piece. Luckily, with fabricator and expert metalsmith Richard Webber, she secured a raw warehouse space in the labyrinthine Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center in Brooklyn. There, Webber and his team have been working for over two years to hand hammer the 3,277 individual plates that will form the sculptor's first work in copper. "We had no idea what lay in front of us or we would have never proposed it," von Rydingsvard says. "I found it very appealing because it hadn't been done before—and we both feel it won't be done again," Webber added. "It's insane but we're gonna do it." In August, the two were nearing the end of the process, working on the 12th of 13 tiers. The sculpture is a rendering, not a casting, meaning that the metalworker looks to the artist's full-size cedar model (which took six months to make) and interprets the undulations of the wood into a sheet of copper that is one-sixteenth of an inch thick—the same as the Statue of Liberty. "We want the copper to be the glory girl," von Rydingsvard says. The Princeton sculpture started in von Rydingsvard's Bushwick studio where she has worked for 14 years. For decades, cedar has been her primary material. "I love the color of the cedar—the color of land, the color of earth," she says. The sculptures are made piece by piece. The artist begins by drawing patterns with a graphite pencil on each individual 4x4 piece of wood. An assistant then cuts it with a circular saw outfitted with a custom-designed blade (the studio goes through four blades a day—in comparison, one such blade would last three weeks in construction work). Each piece of cedar undergoes several rounds of cutting as it is matched to its neighbors and von Rydingsvard revises for look and feel. The studio is populated by numerous giant works in progress, many of which are museum commissions that won't be shown for years. "There are so many things that I'm working toward. It's extremely difficult and extremely exciting. It's a huge gift because I get a lot of opportunities to evolve, to make the kind of work that I could never afford to make on my own." Upstairs in her personal studio, which is inhabited by tapestries and Congolese Nkisi statues, the artist is experimenting with more delicate materials in recent works on paper made with Dieu Donné, some of which will be included in a concurrent show at the Princeton University Art Museum this fall. And in October, von Rydingsvard's 2014 sculpture Bronze Bowl with Lace will be installed at the Bluhm Family Terrace at the Art Institute of Chicago. Rydingsvard likes people to touch the work, to have a bodily experience with it. "The size does not annihilate, does not diminish the human that's there. I hope that it aggrandizes that human." Speaking to this point, she told a story about her 20-foot-tall piece Ona that stands outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn. "There is a guard there who said to me 'I just wanted to tell you something about your sculpture—I've never seen anybody make out as much in front of anything like they make out in front of your piece.' And I thought, oh that's success. That's so good." 100 CULTURED PHOTO BY JONTY WILDE, © THE ARTIST; COURTESY OF GALERIE LELONG, NEW YORK A Tall Order Accomplished artist Ursula von Rydingsvard has never shied away from taking on monumental works. At 19 feet tall, her latest sculpture at Princeton continues the legacy. BY ASHTON COOPER Ursula von Rydingsvard's Bronze Bowl with Lace, 2014, at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Bretton

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