Gilberto Romero Artist Review
The Thinker, 1880
Gilberto Romero’s sculptural voice is inspired form his roots in New Mexico and the American Southwest. Like many modernist sculptors, Gilberto has found new and intriguing ways to compose his sculptures with a combination of unexpected mediums. Many of Gilberto’s sculptures transition from organic stone to flowing bronze that he sets harmoniously together. Gilberto also mixes abstract and representational forms that speak to the underlying currents that flow in the natural world. The viewer is prompted to ponder the ways the natural and urban world meet and are inspired to pursue the balance that Gilberto’s sculpture reflect.
Principals of Art:
Space: Space is demonstrated to create dimension in the composition. The positive space of the sculpture is balanced through the negative surrounding space. The negative spaces created by the sculpture can be as equally important as the sculpture itself. Note in Morning Light Song the empty space between the bird and flowing form and how the space accentuates the presence of the bird.
Color: Gilberto applies a patina by hand to the bronze that changes the chemical composition of the surface into the desired color. In all of Gilberto’s sculptures he chooses a natural and organic patina that reflects the traditions of bronze sculptures and reflects the natural colors of the stone.
Shape: The flowing and organic shapes that Gilberto hand fabricates create rhythm and harmony between the stone, bird and abstract shapes. The metal speaks to Gilberto as he molds the metal into the shapes that wind and flow through his sculptures.
Form: Circle is to shape as sphere is to form. Once Gilberto has established his shapes in his metal work, he creates the forms by perching the separate elements together into an unexpected composition. These forms transition as the viewer walks around the sculpture, offering new insight with every new angle.
Value: Value relates to the tint/shade of a hue (color). Every color can be tinted by adding white or shaded by adding black. The purpose of considering value in a work of art is to help create both dimension and a mood. There are naturally varying values in the patina work applied to the bronze. Naturally occurring values with also be cast upon the sculpture once it is placed near a distinctive light source.
Texture: The bronze forms are finished by Gilberto to be seamless and smooth, which sit in contrast to the highly textured stone. The way these textures juxtapose against each other adds visual interest.
Principals of Design:
Balance: Balance is carefully crafted by Gilberto as he perches flowing meal forms and birds against and on top of the rock. Often times the stone will provide inspiration initially and speak to Gilberto as to how the bronze can be balanced with the stone. Notice in Morning Light Song how the flowing form balances the rock with the lower right swoop of the bronze as it carries a similar visual weight in size and space occupied.
Unity: The unity of a piece is what creates a sense of completeness. Two strongly opposing mediums could be difficult to create unity with, yet Gilberto has found ways to meld the organic stone and flowing bronze. This is due to how he incorporates both as he composes the composition, letting the stone lead the composition. The shape, size, and texture of the stones influence how the bronze will interact when set against it. If they were not composed together, unity would be impossible to achieve.
Variety: Variety is what adds interest into a work of art. The obvious variety is in the change of organic and man made materials as they offer very different textures. The stones themselves are textured from time and weather and instill a reflection of the passing of time in the sculpture for the viewer to contemplate.
Emphasis: Emphasis is what the artist uses to create a focal point. Focal points can vary viewer to viewer, but a truly successful composition will have one clear focal point that the eye is continually drawn to over and over again. Gilberto’s sculptures are very visually interesting and offer many fun aspects for the viewer to enjoy. Overwhelmingly though the flowing forms of the bronze acts as the main focal point as it is what ties the mediums together harmoniously an typically occupies the most space.
Movement: Movement implies motion is a snapshot of time. To create movement in his sculptures Gilberto fabricates his bronze in swooping and curving shapes that naturally lead the eye. You can see in Morning Light Song how the curve inspires your eye to move from the right and to the top of the sculpture where it finds the bird perched on the stone.
Pattern: Think of pattern as the visual skeleton that organizes the parts of a composition. This underlying structure uses consistent and regular repetition. You can have both natural and man made pattern. Pattern plays a subtle roll in Gilberto’s sculptures, most noticeably with the repetition of curves in the flowing bronze forms.
Perspective: Perspective is what’s creates a three dimensional work of art vs a two dimensional work of art. The joy of sculpture is that it is a 360 degree viewing experience and allows for limitless perspectives. The viewer is gifted new insight into the sculpture as they view it from every new angle.
Gilberto traverses his family’s ancestral land in New Mexico to find the perfect stones to compliment his sculptures. These stones vary in size, form and type dramatically, but when Gilberto finds the right stone he knows it.
To create his flowing forms, Gilberto hand molds and fabricates the bronze nest to the stone. He uses sheet metal to establish his shapes around the stones, letting them speak together in order to create harmony. The pieces are welded and finished to a smooth surface by hand. The mastery of attaining such a smooth and finished surface is due to Gilberto’s many years working with metal.
Gilberto uses the lost wax casting technique to create the birds in his sculptures which has been in use for the last 6,000 years in the production of bronze sculpture. The process starts with making the model in clay, wax or a similar medium. Once the form has been created a mold is made around it so the interior of the ridged outer mold holds a mirror image of the original mold in it’s interior.
After the mold is completed it is filled with molten wax which creates a hollow wax copy of the original mold. The wax mold is then “chased” where it is finished to look just like the original mold. This wax copy is then “spurred” with a tree like structure of wax which will act as a guide for the molten coating material and then melted away. Once the wax copy has been spurred, it is then dipped into a slurry of silica which acts like a sand coating the entire exterior of the wax copy. This silica coated piece is placed in a kiln, spurred down, and the heat hardens the shell and the wax melts out.
Now all that remains of the original artwork is the negative space formerly occupied by the wax, inside the hardened ceramic shell. Bronze is melted in a furnace then poured into the shell and then allowed to cool. The shell is either sand blasted or hammered away revealing the rough casting. Metal chasing now smooths the edges, removes imperfections, and clips off the spurs to reveal the same mold in its finished bronze form. The patina is then painstakingly applied by the artist typically with a paint or air brush.