Andrew's art explores form
An artist who explores the endless possibilities of form, L. John Andrew finds Milwaukee has all of the resources he needs to perfect his craft.
Growing up in Fond du Lac, Andrew didn't really discover his love of art until his last year in high school. He ventured to UW-Stout to study industrial design, but an elective course in art metals eventually led to him graduating with a BFA in metalsmithing.
Upon graduation from Stout, Andrew headed to Vail, Colo. to begin his career. He became a jewelry maker. During his time out west, he worked for both a large production company as well as a small custom jeweler. As he contemplated his next step in life, he left Colorado to participate in a class at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina.
A two-year scholarship opportunity arose, so he decided to continue to develop his portfolio at Penland and prepare for grad school. During this time, he worked on translating some of his early Colorado work into new jewelry designs. He had spent a lot of time making clasps and mechanisms, so he concentrated on making those components the focus of his designs.
While experimenting with his jewelry designs, he also took classes such as basket making and glass casting. At the end of his two years, he was ready for grad school and headed to the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. While it was a broad program, most of his work was sculptural in nature.
He also started to experiment with furniture. He picked up where he left off with his jewelry and translated his mechanism ideas into furniture. A cabinet with a counterweight and spring loaded opening system were part of this collection. In addition, he took inspiration from objects such as buoys and interpreted its form into candlesticks. He also worked with sheets of metal and layering techniques developing abstract sculptural forms.
While many of his pieces started as sketches and technical drawings, he challenged himself to practice a more reactionary method, letting the piece give him direction rather than the drawing.
From East Coast to West Coast Andrew gained experience and a fine education, but Wisconsin called him home. After a little time back in Fond du Lac post grad school, he headed to Milwaukee.
"After living in Colorado, Detroit etc. ... I realized I needed a vibrant community, and I pictured Milwaukee as that. It is close to home and a nice functional city," says Andrew.
Comfortably settled in Milwaukee, he continues to experiment with form and currently does so with the help of washers. While he allows some pieces to evolve, he also meticulously plans others.
"The washer sculpture pieces are influenced by cell structures, both plant and biological growth," describes Andrew. "The furniture forms are more influenced by mid-century modern forms such as the molded plastic and plywood furniture. I am trying to take it one step further. I am trying to take a flat metal piece and make it fluid, yet durable and strong. It is important that the furniture is comfortable and looks good."
Andrew begins his furniture pieces by constructing a complete wire form. He fastens several washers onto the frame at a central point, and then works outward welding the washers together. The focus is the seating surfaces, which serves as the main part of the piece. He completes it by adding simple mid-century modern inspired legs, so the focus is on the washer form. When the welding is finishes, he cuts away the wire frame. These furniture pieces take plenty of planning.
In contrast, his washer sculptures evolve without a preconceived idea. He simply starts welding the washers and sees where it leads him.
Andrew has been working with the washers ever since he moved to Milwaukee almost a year ago. He works at MIAD as the Sculpture Lab tech and participates in the local arts community. He has pieces available at Hotcakes Gallery in Milwaukee and at the Hue Art Gallery in Madison.
According to Rachel Fox of the Hue Art Gallery, "I think the most intriguing thing about John's work is that he's managed to take a hard material like metal and make it appear soft through his meticulous design and construction.
Visitors to our gallery frequently comment on his work, and are amazed when they realize a piece is comprised of a simple utilitarian object like a steel washer. The contrast between what a washer is supposed to function as versus what it becomes when hundreds of them are welded together into various organic forms is what makes his work so powerful. John's sculptures appear almost fluid and alive, and it's difficult to not be drawn in by them."
"I think John is the most talented sculptor in Wisconsin right now. His attention to details and meticulous craftsmanship are rare. Hotcakes has sent out calls for sculpture all over the country and John's work is the most exciting I have seen," says Mike Brenner of Hotcakes Gallery.
For Andrew, Milwaukee is the perfect place to live.
"It's a nice size, not too big and not too small," comments Andrew. "It is a great place with a good art community. There is a lot going on and it seems to have all of the resources, both the people and materials, that I need."
While MIAD and washer work keep Andrew busy, he is looking for his next big thing. Whether he finds a new twist to something old or something brand new, he will keep experimenting with forms and making furniture. He even hopes to make a large public sculpture one day. Once you see his work you will be sure to look at washers in a whole new way.
judith ann moriarty said: I'm a lucky owner of one of Mr. Andrew's sculptural "couches" fashioned of metal washers. Found it at Hotcakes Gallery and now it's sitting on my balcony overlooking the lake
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