|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
An interview with Saint Clair Cemin
By Amy Chaiklin
Clair Cemin is an artist who has fabricated sculptures out of bronze,
plaster, marble, steel, and wood. As varied as the materials, so is the
scale from table-top height to towering out-door fountains and statues.
His interest in public sculpture started in the early nineteen-nineties
with his first public-art commission Mercury Fountain(1990) for a town
square in Reston, Virginia. In nineteen-ninety-six, the bronze version
of Hood Ornament(1996) was purchased by Grounds for Sculpture for
permanent installation at their museum and sculpture park in Hamilton,
New Jersey. Recently, three commissions for monumental scale bronze
sculptures were installed in permanent out-door public sites around the
world, Tree(2000) in Bergen, Norway, Spring(2000) in Bastad, Sweden,
and Open(2000-2001) in Schamburg, Illinois.
When the town of
Reston, Virginia desired a public fountain for the town square they
organized a committee and invited artists to submit proposals to a
jury. Saint Clair Cemin, who is known for his bronze and marble
sculptures that combine abstract and figurative elements, won the
competition with his proposal, Mercury Fountain(1990), which stands
twenty-seven-and-a-half feet tall. A bronze classical statue depicting
Mercury, the mythological winged-footed messenger, stands posed for
flight atop a carved marble column. Encircling the column are twelve
decorative bronze elements resembling abstracted horns or seashells,
from which water cascades into a 9 x 10 foot basin carved from a single
piece of marble and then overflows into several levels of collecting
pools at the base of the fountain.
the hydrocal sculpture Hood Ornament(1995) was presented at Robert
Miller Gallery in New York, it's grand scale of eleven-foot high by
eleven-foot wide and four-feet in depth took up the entire floor space
of the exhibition room. Cemin had fabricated Hood Ornament out of
cardboard triangles and squares affixed to a simple wooden armature and
reinforced on the exterior with hydrocal. Using the cardboard form as a
mold, he cut it in half and cast the inside in white hydrocal. All of
the seams where the cardboard sections had been joined and even the
tears in the cardboard material were visible. When the piece was cast
in bronze at Johnson Atelier, the many faceted surface caught and
reflected light off the metal in an interesting way. The bronze version
of Hood Ornament(1996) stands surrounded by a field of green grass at
the out-door sculpture park at Grounds for Sculpture.
the experience of casting Hood Ornament in bronze, Cemin was interested
to continue to fabricate large scale out-door public artworks. In
nineteen-ninety-nine, the opportunity came in the form of three
separate commissions. Over the next two years, Cemin designed, had
fabricated, and installed three bronze sculptures of the monumental
scale, which were each destined for a different city around the world.
All three projects were realized by the artist at foundries in China.
For an artist who lives and works in New York, China is on the other
side of the world. So why China?
Cemin clarifies that in
nineteen-ninety-nine while visiting the Beijing Fine Art Institute in
China, he met Li-Gang, a young artist who introduced him to the
model-making studio and foundries that cast bronze sculptures of an
epic proportion. Cemin learned that for the last century China has had
excellent experience in fabricating gigantic public monuments. To this
day, the Chinese foundries employ traditional model-making methods that
were perfected in nineteenth-century France. These techniques were
passed from France to Russia and then onto China, arriving just after
the Chinese Revolution.
Cemin, who already had the designs
completed and approved for the two public art commissions for sites in
Norway and Sweden, understood the value of fabricating his proposed
large-scale sculptures in China. He hired Li-Gang as his on-site
assistant and translator, and began working immediately. From the
artist's specifications two models were started out of clay over a
steel and wood structure. As the project progressed over the next few
months, Cemin made several visits over to China, twice to work on the
clay models, and again to oversee the bronze finishing.
commission was for the Telenor Corporation, in Bergen, Norway. Through
the Galerie Lars Bohman in Stockholm, which represents Cemin's work in
Sweden, the artist was introduced to Claes Söderquist, who organized
the connection to the Telenor Corporation. The Telenor commission was
for a sculpture designed specifically for a twenty-five meter site on
the grounds of the new Telenor building in Bergen, Norway. When the
artist visited the site in Bergen he was impressed by the surrounding
view of pine trees. In his design, Cemin considered the color, form,
and scale of the sculpture to echo the Norwegian woods, and reference
the World Tree, Yggdrasil of Norwegian mythology. Tree (2000), stands
majestically tall, weights four-and-a-half tons, and the bronze is
finished with a green patina.
and scale can greatly effect the feeling of an artwork. For example, in 1998 Cemin completed a group of marble carving that
were exhibited at Galerie Lars Bohman. Included in this group were Tree
and Woman (1998), both carvings are approximately thirty-eight inches in
height. The marble Tree (1998) sits as a solid mass on a square base,
with layer of leaves forming a crown-like shape. The out-door bronze
sculpture Tree ( 2000) raises from a ten-foot base to a towering
twenty-six-foot height. Reaching towards the sky the form twists and
turns as it spirals up to a pinnacle.
The surface markings on
the marble carving Woman (1998) seem to caress the statue from head to
toe, while she stands perfectly still. Her whole body is formed from a
single mass, with no definition of the arms, face, or legs. A year
later Cemin produced another sculpture of the female image, this time
out of bronze, entitled Order and Progress (1999). I n the bronze a
large woman carries a smaller woman atop her head. The features of the
two woman are more defined and there is a more fluid movement to the
body, as if caught in mid-stride. It seems that when translating from
marble into bronze there comes a lighter and more elongated form.
much larger version of Order and Progress (1999), was later fabricated
in bronze and re-named Spring (2000) for Cemin's second public-art
commission for the town of Bastad, Sweden. The commission came about
because the Swedish artist Peter Frie who lives in Bastad knew that
there was to be a competition to design a public fountain for the town
plaza. Peter Frie recommended Cemin for the project. Cemin proposed to
enlarge the existing sculpture Order and Progress from forty-six inches
to twelve-foot in height and transform the statue into a fountain by
having a small stream of water emanate from the hand of the smaller
woman who sits atop the larger woman. From that height the water gently
arches outward and forms a small pool just at the larger woman's feet.
Cemin enlarged the figure from fourty-six inches to twelve-foot in
height, he altered the texture and refined curtain details. There are
rough marking all over the surface of Order and Progress giving the
illusion that the fabric which drapes the larger figure is of the same
material as the skin. In Spring, the women's skin is smoother and the
fabric folds are deeper. This allegorical statue stands with courage
and strength in the center of the town of Bastad, as if Winter would be
carrying Spring on it's shoulders.
Both Tree and Spring were
being worked on at the same time in the Beijing model making studio. At
any given time there was a crew of fifteen people working on both
projects. The photographs of Tree were taken at the foundry in China,
showing the crew that worked on the casting. When the finished clay
models for both pieces were approved by Cemin, the second step was to
make the plaster mold. A plaster positive was cast and the clay model
was destroyed. The final model going to the foundry was a plaster
sculpture, which was transported by truck four hours from the model
studio in Beijing to the foundry in the Hebei province.
particular foundry was an expert at bronze sand casting. Each detail
meant a separate piece, resulting in over twenty sand molds just for
the woman's head of Spring. The sand casting for both pieces took two
months. Cemin went back to China to inspect the finished pieces which
he found to be perfect, and then the sculptures were trucked to a port
where each sculpture was sent on a boat, Tree to Norway, and Spring to
was the third sculpture to be fabricated in China. Carrie Secrist
Gallery of Chicago, Illinois arranged the meeting between the artist
and the Motorola Corporation. Cemin proposed an enormous bronze
sculpture which stands eighteen-and-half feet high like a giant
rectangular doorway or frame. Within this framework are four cut-out
shapes. Fluid bronze ribbons surround open spaces which represent
abstracted images of an antenna, bird, bridge, and a woman holding a
shell to her ear. This five-and-a-half ton artwork was bronze cast in
five pieces, welded together and then cut in half for transportation by
boat from the foundry in China to the United States. Once in Illinois
the sculpture was welded back together and installed with local
finishers from Chicago.
Saint Clair Cemin thinks seriously about
perspective. He realizes that large-scale public sculpture ideally is
meant to be seen from a distance. More often than not there are too
many obstacles like automobiles, buildings, or trees, which get in the
way of a clear long range view. As an artist fabricating monumental
public art, Cemin is keenly aware of the fact that artworks seen in a
public setting are often viewed from a foreshortened perspective.
Conscience of this fact, Cemin considers the sculpture from up-close,
from a few feet away, and then again from twenty feet in the distance.
Most importantly to make sure that the image holds it's shape from any
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Sculptor Saint Clair Cemin works with an extensive range of materials and techniques- from carving to building mixed media- establishing a repertoire of effects from subtlety to overstatement. A testimony to his reputation as a skilled creative designer is his commission in 2008, of being in charge of designing "all the new brozne fittings, light fixtures, stair rails and decorative panels for the reovate Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris."|
A Brazilian artist who has spent much of his career in New York City, he does work that has been hailed as "refreshing in its lack of pretense." Exhibition venues include Boston's Fogg Museum and the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College.
He was born in 1951 in Alta Cruz, Brazil, and he studied at the Ecole Nationale Superiore des Beaux Arts, in Paris, France. Cemin uses a range of traditional materials: stone, iron, wood, bronze, marble and terra-cotta, with a variety of techniques that include direct carving, modeling and the creation of mixed-media works. The scale of his semi-figurative/abstract sculptures explores table-top height to towering out-door fountains and statues.
His interest in public sculpture began in 1990 with his first public-art commission, Mercury Fountain, for a town square in Reston, Virginia. In 1996, the bronze version of Hood Ornament was purchased by Grounds for Sculpture for permanent installation at their museum and sculpture park in Hamilton, New Jersey. In 2000, three monumental bronze sculptures were installed in public sites: "Tree", in Bergen, Norway; Spring, in Bastad, Sweden; and Open, in Schamburg, Illinois. All three projects were cast by foundries in China.
In 1999, Cemin, while visiting the Beijing Fine Art Institute in China, met Li-Gang, a young artist who introduced him to the model-making studio and foundries with century-long experience in monumental bronzes. He hired Li-Gang as his on-site assistant and translator. Two models were begun of clay over a steel and wood armature. As these sculptures progressed, Cemin returned several times to China to work on the models and oversee the bronze finishing.
In 1995, he received the Biennial Award and Purchase Prize from the Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo and the Hakone Open-Air Museum, Japan.
Some collections include:
Eli Broad Family Foundation, Los Angeles, CA
Emily Fisher Landau Collection, Long Island City, NY
Chase Manhattan Bank, NY
FNAC (Fonds National d'Art Contemporain), Paris, France
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Monterrey, Mexico
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
Reston Town Center, Reston, VA
Rooseum, Stockholm, Sweden
Hakone Open-Air Museum, Japan
Whitney Museum of American Art, NY
1995 The Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo and the Hakone Open-Air Museum, Japan
1995 Biennial Award and Purchase Prize
Brook Adams, "After the Hunt", Art in America, February 2008, p. 131
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|