Contemporary Curator Juried Exhibition:
The Rare Few
Carrie Johnson, Collections & Exhibitions Curator, Rockford Museum of Art, IL
It has been a great pleasure serving as a juror for the 2019 National Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art and Practices. As a native of Rockford, Illinois (lovingly referred to as the Screw City), I have an inherent interest and love for industry development, machinery and tools. Being a product of the Rust Belt, I have a deep-rooted respect for the gritty materials, sweat, strength, and creativity expressed through contemporary sculpture.
It was exciting for me to see so many innovative ideas and styles represented among the submissions. Selecting intriguing, challenging, and excellent works from this pool was not difficult. The submissions represented ideas and concepts executed in a range of media, and spanned modes of thinking and making, from traditional to contemporary practices. The works I chose reflect a wide range of styles and genres imaginable with a range of materials, from traditional casting to abstract sculpture. I went into this process making selections that reflected my taste and my experience working at a museum. In reviewing the work, I organized the pieces into categories I identified as abstractions, narratives, composition, concept, technique, and materials. Ultimately, through all that organization, I chose what I loved. Whether the work has a political, feminine, obscure, social or environmental bent, I chose pieces that were unique and spoke to me personally. These are the rare few that gave me a gut punch – that compelled me either aesthetically or mentally. In any juried exhibition, you don’t go into it curating. You choose what you think is the finest work that represents a range of ideas that will make a dynamic exhibition.
Thank you to the NCCCIAP for your commitment to maintaining the tradition of this exhibition that reinforces the importance of contemporary sculpture.
Lastly, thank you and congratulations to all the talented artists for sharing your work with us and giving us a glimpse into your creative, thoughtful worlds.
Practitioner Juried Exhibition:
Abraham Darby’s Childhood
Tobias Flores, Associate Professor, Fort Hays State University, KS
My thanks to the steering committee for this wonderful opportunity to jury this exhibition, which I titled, “Abraham Darby’s Childhood Toys.” I have been casting, teaching, hauling, crating, grinding, melting, critiquing, breaking, polishing, and loving cast iron for twenty years. In that time, Sloss Furnaces has always been “the mecca”, the place where iron casters gather.
I already loved iron casting before I went to Sloss for the first time, but Birmingham will get you. It will put rust and rivets in your soul. It is Jimmy’s hot dogs and the famous Whiting Furnace ran by the ironmaster himself - Julius Schmidt. It’s a special place and I am truly honored with this task of serving as juror for the National Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art and Practices.
Abraham Darby can be credited with numerous inventions that moved forward the industrial revolution. The biggest of these innovations was a blast furnace that produced pig iron with coke instead of charcoal. The British ironmaster’s brilliance continued with his son and eventually his grandson making big contributions to the iron industry. This made me think of Abraham’s kids growing up in the foundry playing with iron scrap and discarded tooling.
My experience and intuition helped me select the works for this exhibition. The title reflects my desire for iron history and works that are humorous or light hearted. The submissions were diverse and I did find some that shared my hankering for humor.
I also picked work that had current political discourse, some that seemed to celebrate materiality, some that honored femininity, and other work that took risks with concept or material. Simply put, there were no rules and I picked work I liked. The hard part was narrowing down the number of selections so that they would all fit in the gallery space. For me it was a blast! I congratulate everyone that submitted.
My hope is that you enjoy the exhibit as much as I enjoyed being the juror. See you in the iron pile.
Cope, Drag, and Core
Stacey Holloway, Assistant Professor, University of Alabama Birmingham
David Lobdell, Professor & Chair, New Mexico Highlands University
Laura Elizabeth Mullen, Preparator, St. Louis Art Museum
Cope, Drag, and Core is an exhibition and celebration of the traditional and contemporary
process of metal casting. These terms refer to the three main components of a standard resin
bonded sand mold from which we create our forms. Our practice and methodologies can be both challenging and rewarding as we adapt conventional industrial manufacturing craft to create contemporary sculptural works.
As a part of Birmingham’s biography, Sloss Furnaces has a rich history rooted in the iron and steel industry, which has transformed the conceptual thinking of many of the artists that have experienced Sloss Metal Arts’ conferences, residencies, and youth programs. For this show, the artists’ works were selected to illustrate a variety of approaches and processes within the practice. Specifically, this exhibition highlights re-appropriation, the use of the narrative, investigations of memory, and experimentation in texture as surreal representations that change our perception of the world we know.
Coke Bin Installations
For the first time using the Sloss Furnaces’ coke bins as site specific exhibition spaces, eleven artists are featured who explore new forms of outdoor installation and iron. These works investigate the impact of Sloss on Birmingham, the observations of society, the ritual elements of transformation, the play on material, gender equality, the camaraderie of the the cast iron practice, and the extraction of elements from nature and industry.
Installations by Paige Henry, Alyssa Imes, Haley Hester & 0ne3xplorer, Lauren Koch, Jennifer Lemons, Clifford McPeek, Christopher Meyer, Ryan J. Rasmussen, Ian Skinner, and Emily Stergar.
Charles Hook Award Exhibition:
New works by Gerry Masse
Founding Director, Sculpture Trails Outdoor Museum
These sculptures are inspired by moments in my life that I want to savor and let soak in. They started as life drawings then carved into the sand molds. I focused on making the sculptures feel effortless, expressive and fluid to carry the same voice as my drawings. They were cast in iron at three different cast iron sculpture workshops over the last 2 years: The Metal Museum in Memphis, Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, and Sculpture Trails in Solsberry. Thank you to all those amazing iron casters around the country for providing an environment for artists to cast iron and for pushing cast iron into the forefront of contemporary sculpture. Together we will keep the object alive and well.
Steering Committee Exhibition:
Beyond the Parting Line
When not planning the conference, the people behind the scenes make art too! Meet the team...
2019 Exhibition Jurors
We have an amazing collaboration for this year’s conference with two jurors of distinct viewpoints on the breadth of contemporary art and the depth of cast iron art and practice.
Professional Curator Juror
Curator, Rockford Art Museum, Illinois
Carrie Johnson is responsible for the overall management and development of the RAM Permanent Collection as well as the organization and production of all feature exhibitions. She joined the RAM staff in December 2006, and was named Curator in July 2012.
Johnson has helped facilitate a bevy of recent acquisitions to RAM, including works by Deborah Butterfield, Carlos Rolón/Dzine, Dan Ramirez, and Vera Klement; Fatherless Print Posse; plus several major collections to the museum, including the Susan and Steven Pitkin Collection (work by critically acclaimed self-taught African American artists); Laura and John Fraser Collection (122 works by an international roster of 57 contemporary artists); and the Jeff Stevens Collection (31 works by 14 artists, many of which are working Illinois artists). Johnson coauthored the 2013 book on the history of the museum and its collection, RAM 100: Rockford Art Museum, 1913–2013. Feature exhibitions curated by Johnson at RAM include Dwellings, The Laura + John Fraser Collection, Misfits, Bittersweet Observations, The Others, Deconstructing the American Landscape, The Wonderful World of Stephen Warde Anderson, Phyllis Bramson: In Praise of Folly, Printmakers Ball, Carlos Rolón: Now and Then, Tradiciones, Modern Metaphors, and many more. Carrie recently curated "Misfits," an exhibition at RAM featuring 1960's biker subculture through photographs, literature, film, and art.
Toby was born in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1971. He studied art at Moon Valley High School under Art Smith. He studied printmaking, drawing and sculpture in San Diego receiving a BA from San Diego State University in 2000. At SDSU he worked under Jerry Dumlao who taught him how to weld and cast metal which inspired him to switch his major from printmaking to sculpture. He studied sculpture and blacksmithing at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and received his MFA in 2003. He now lives and works in Hays, Kansas with his wife, Libby and their two boys, Cooper and Oscar.
Flores has been teaching sculpture at Fort Hays State University since 2006. The sculpture program at FHSU offers BFA and MFA degrees focused on metalworking, specifically casting, fabrication and blacksmithing in a brand new, state of the art facility. He has exhibited in over one hundred exhibitions throughout the United States, Europe, and China. He is one of the founding members of the Western Cast Iron Art Alliance and loves to tell stories.