Metal Art And Steel Sculpture Overview}

Submitted by: Ivan Smith

While marble and bronze have a historically been the preferred medium for sculptors, new techniques in the use and shaping of steel have made it one of the best mediums for the modern sculptor to use. Steel is, it goes without saying, strong. It is also easy to maintain and the gloss of its finish lasts and does not dull with age. It needs little maintenance and is able to capture delicate detailing and nuances. In the delicacy of its use, the sculptor is able to use it as precisely and the painter uses his brush.

Steel sculpture came into being at the hands of artists born at the beginning of the 20th century. These sculptors would adopt and modify European modernism in such a dramatic fashion that they developed a style of their own. These artists approached sculpture from a paintes point of view rather than a sculptors and found meaning and beauty in industrial products and the use creation of geometric designs and abstract shapes. For them, steel was the material of choice. They understood that steel could replace not just the lines and planes of marble, iron and even wood, but give the finished work of art a power and presence no other material could match.

Steel sculpture opened the doors to new concepts. The size of the sculpture was now limited only be the imagination of the sculptor. And since steel was immune to effects of weather, large outdoor sculptures became common. These were not just pieces for private collections and galleries, but were made for public places. Steel sculptures could now be commissioned by municipal authorities for public plazas, parks, airports and buildings. The availability of public finds for commissioning large sculptures gave a huge fillip to the genre of steel sculpting.

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Steel sculpting also ceased to be purely the work of the artist, although the artistic values were not lost. An example of this is Picassos 1967 creation of a huge head of a woman in steel. This was done in Chicago and the complete piece was fabricated at a steel company that was located near the city by skilled industrial steelworkers who were able to use the companys equipment to raise, cut, weld, bend and shape enormous pieces of heavy steel together to create the final sculpture using based on the small model the artist had created for them to work with.

Although steel sculpture became popular in the years following World War II, most universities and art school did not have the expertise or equipment to teach steel sculpting. However, by the 1970s, the popularity of the art form had created such a demand that these institutions were able to not just procure the equipment needed to teach this art form but were also were able to bring in teachers with the experience and skill to assist in the birth of a new generation of sculptors who had both an understanding of steel as a material and the skill to create with it.

Today, steel is the preferred material for large outdoor and very often, government commissioned sculptures.

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