Einstein Quote

“Gravity cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.”

-Einstein

the Universe Revolves Around YOU

This is a work about inertia. The idea is to create a plaything, an object that allows YOU to interact with rolling mass equivalent to a loaded railroad freight car. In this case, the load is big slabs of stone, spinning boulders and a lot of humans. Sort of a sculpture mash-up between a merry-go-round an a freight train.

 It was built and shown at Burning Man 2012. We are now working on some mechanical improvements and looking for new venues.

–BUILD PROCESS–

Here is a raw edit of the time-lapse we set up in the shop for the build.  Kind of fun, needs a lot of editing and combining with images in the desert.

When we set it up, I tried to include the eventual pipes in the air in the frame. Later we realized that it was above the height of the bridge crane so we completed the connection in the desert. Hard to think that far ahead.

Anyway, with a thumping beat from the BBoys, it can be fun to watch til we get something more polished:

 

 

 

Thursday August 16.

Big pipes are mostly welded up, now for the box connection and the Rockspinner mount and the boulder mount.

now thats a big pipe

Tuesday August 14:

Coming down to the wire. We are almost done with the big pipes. Now we need to weld the wacky connection between the pipes and the base, this is a lot of steel. Then mount the spinning rock into its bearing, figure out a mount for the static rock and myriads of other details. Down to 7 days before we ship the first load.

getting it ready to weld

 

welding on the flange. little joe can run some kinda bead.

Thursday August 9: Working toward the finish line now. The work should be rolling on the track for testing tomorrow. The wheel boxes are all in and will be welded up tonight. Hardware for the axles and tracking wheels should be ready today. The main flanges are welded up, now for the base connection of the pipes and the spinning rock…

Lucas relaxing while welding the bottom of a flange.

not a wicked witch

welding the wheel box

 

Thursday August 2:

We finished up the sections and took the ring apart and stacked the sections.

 

And we have cut the rail so that we have an accurate ring. Now we have to determine how concentric it is and what adjustments need to be made in the design of the wheel brackets.

where the wheel hits the rail

cuttin the rail

 

Wednesday August 1:

Awesome progress. The ring got welded up completely last night. Now we can break it up in pieces and stack it out of the way and lay down the track ring, scribe and cut the last piece of track.

circle…complete, now on to the tracks

The wheels came in yesterday. They are monster and should be able to carry the load for at least 100,000 miles:

These should do it.

 

 

Saturday July 21:

The rocks from the Sierra Mountains arrived this morning. Here are Heath and Joel having fun unloading.

Heavier than a potato.

The smaller of the platform rocks.

Heath thinks on the arbitrary rock

Two of the 6 sections are now tacked. The piece is going together like a dream. By taking the time to set up our workspace exactly level and taking advantage of the precision of laser cut pieces, everything is dropping right into place.

 

 

Wednesday July 18: The skirt is being laid out, all of the internal structural gusset work that will transfer the skirt (24″ tall by 5/16″ thick) from a floppy strip of metal into an amazingly rigid beam is being cut today. We should be able to start tacking the pieces together tonight and will then start discovering all the errors that Zach made while designing it. Zach needs an engineer to watch over his shoulder and check all these plate files, as the artist is error prone…..

Saturday July 14:

Good week. All the big steel came in. And it is big. Starting to really come together. This is a giant piece.

2: We have laid out our perfectly flat and level gravel bed for the “rail ties” and have just about finished arranging them according to final install. Today is the day we pour concrete and should be the end of working with materials other than big steel and big stone. Here are some pics of the process:

The big pipes are now being rolled in Chicago as there isn’t the capacity to roll such large diameter on the west coast, or at least we haven’t been able to locate it. Should be able to ship to us within two weeks. Can you say expensive?

We were just in the Sierras selecting boulders. Here is one of the spinners, this is a big rock, it will be the tallest of the spinners with the top standing about 12 feet above the playa:

Note: The design has been evolving rapidly. Moving from a trio of elements to a dichotomy. The video above shows an early version. Here is a screenshot showing the design direction, more to come:

Start the saws:

Ok, the slab size and number has been determined. A lot more rough/raw stone will be coming from the Sierra’s and a little more exposed steel. We shall be cutting and flame finishing 16 slabs of stone weighing about a ton and half each. Thanks to Blue Sky quarry and McCannon Granite for making this happen.

These are the saws used to cut the slabs.

X marks the keyhole at Burning Man:

This the location for the work. It is a funny spot with all kinds of mo-jo, the number of people and energy level is high. If an interactive sculpture can be broken by humans, this is an excellent place to try. In some ways, this work is a dialogue with the participants of Burning Man at that particular spot. Oh, the humanity….

This is a work about inertia. The idea is to create a plaything, an object that allows YOU to interact with rolling mass equivalent to a loaded railroad freight car. In this case, the load is big slabs of stone, spinning boulders and a lot of humans. Sort of a sculpture mash-up between a merry-go-round an a freight train.

 It was built and shown at Burning Man 2012. We are now working on some mechanical improvements and looking for new venues.

–BUILD PROCESS–

Here is a raw edit of the time-lapse we set up in the shop for the build.  Kind of fun, needs a lot of editing and combining with images in the desert.

When we set it up, I tried to include the eventual pipes in the air in the frame. Later we realized that it was above the height of the bridge crane so we completed the connection in the desert. Hard to think that far ahead.

Anyway, with a thumping beat from the BBoys, it can be fun to watch til we get something more polished:

 

 

 

Thursday August 16.

Big pipes are mostly welded up, now for the box connection and the Rockspinner mount and the boulder mount.

now thats a big pipe

Tuesday August 14:

Coming down to the wire. We are almost done with the big pipes. Now we need to weld the wacky connection between the pipes and the base, this is a lot of steel. Then mount the spinning rock into its bearing, figure out a mount for the static rock and myriads of other details. Down to 7 days before we ship the first load.

getting it ready to weld

 

welding on the flange. little joe can run some kinda bead.

Thursday August 9: Working toward the finish line now. The work should be rolling on the track for testing tomorrow. The wheel boxes are all in and will be welded up tonight. Hardware for the axles and tracking wheels should be ready today. The main flanges are welded up, now for the base connection of the pipes and the spinning rock…

Lucas relaxing while welding the bottom of a flange.

not a wicked witch

welding the wheel box

 

Thursday August 2:

We finished up the sections and took the ring apart and stacked the sections.

 

And we have cut the rail so that we have an accurate ring. Now we have to determine how concentric it is and what adjustments need to be made in the design of the wheel brackets.

where the wheel hits the rail

cuttin the rail

 

Wednesday August 1:

Awesome progress. The ring got welded up completely last night. Now we can break it up in pieces and stack it out of the way and lay down the track ring, scribe and cut the last piece of track.

circle…complete, now on to the tracks

The wheels came in yesterday. They are monster and should be able to carry the load for at least 100,000 miles:

These should do it.

 

 

Saturday July 21:

The rocks from the Sierra Mountains arrived this morning. Here are Heath and Joel having fun unloading.

Heavier than a potato.

The smaller of the platform rocks.

Heath thinks on the arbitrary rock

Two of the 6 sections are now tacked. The piece is going together like a dream. By taking the time to set up our workspace exactly level and taking advantage of the precision of laser cut pieces, everything is dropping right into place.

 

 

Wednesday July 18: The skirt is being laid out, all of the internal structural gusset work that will transfer the skirt (24″ tall by 5/16″ thick) from a floppy strip of metal into an amazingly rigid beam is being cut today. We should be able to start tacking the pieces together tonight and will then start discovering all the errors that Zach made while designing it. Zach needs an engineer to watch over his shoulder and check all these plate files, as the artist is error prone…..

Saturday July 14:

Good week. All the big steel came in. And it is big. Starting to really come together. This is a giant piece.

2: We have laid out our perfectly flat and level gravel bed for the “rail ties” and have just about finished arranging them according to final install. Today is the day we pour concrete and should be the end of working with materials other than big steel and big stone. Here are some pics of the process:

The big pipes are now being rolled in Chicago as there isn’t the capacity to roll such large diameter on the west coast, or at least we haven’t been able to locate it. Should be able to ship to us within two weeks. Can you say expensive?

We were just in the Sierras selecting boulders. Here is one of the spinners, this is a big rock, it will be the tallest of the spinners with the top standing about 12 feet above the playa:

Note: The design has been evolving rapidly. Moving from a trio of elements to a dichotomy. The video above shows an early version. Here is a screenshot showing the design direction, more to come:

Start the saws:

Ok, the slab size and number has been determined. A lot more rough/raw stone will be coming from the Sierra’s and a little more exposed steel. We shall be cutting and flame finishing 16 slabs of stone weighing about a ton and half each. Thanks to Blue Sky quarry and McCannon Granite for making this happen.

These are the saws used to cut the slabs.

X marks the keyhole at Burning Man:

This the location for the work. It is a funny spot with all kinds of mo-jo, the number of people and energy level is high. If an interactive sculpture can be broken by humans, this is an excellent place to try. In some ways, this work is a dialogue with the participants of Burning Man at that particular spot. Oh, the humanity….

Einstein Quote

“Gravity cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.”

-Einstein

Birmingham News: 1997

 

 

Looking, touching: Coffin’s sculptures a rare treat

The Birmingham News

Sunday, March 30, 1997

By James R. Nelson

 

Industrial Jungle, three sculptures by Zachary Coffin, The Birmingham Museum of Art, The Charles W. Ireland Sculpture Garden, Through Fall 1997.

 

 

 

A work of art worthy of the name always evokes a response from the viewer.

As I walked around the lower sculpture garden at the Birmingham Museum, I saw parents and children actively enjoying Coffin’s works, looking and touching the pieces as if visiting an antediluvian petting zoo, discovering pleasure in strange forms that responded to their curiosity.Leviathan and humorous do not seem compatible terms, and yet these huge kinetic sculptures amuse adults and delight children by their size and movement. But beyond this “fun” response, one sees the beauty of form, the nicely crafted and fitted parts, the power of mass and the movement of these sculptures. “Finnibar,” a reference to a mythical tethered bull, places a cast iron segment and a welded pipe piece on rocking bars affixed to separate, large boulders. The cast increment, a compact Y-shaped piece, has a large spring under one of its angles. The other piece, made of large pipe welded into joints, uses the expanded, asymmetric Y, structured to suggest a pair of tremendous horns. A tension cable connects and holds them in place. By pushing or pulling on either piece, the two parts move in a slow, lumbering manner, much as an ox straining at a rope. A gargantuan gesture to passive/active observation, “Bouncing Bench” takes on the aspect of a tubular pillow seat. Parallel bars supported by a single, thick rod protrude from a massive rock. Slipped onto a transverse rod and supported half-way down their length by a double-coil spring, the bars are attached to a large pipe welded into a somewhat free form, undulating shape. By pressing down, the pipe bounces like a lumbering porch swing.The largest, most complex and delightful piece is “Antelumpen,” a title based on the herd movements of antelopes. Mounting three tall streetlight poles on pivots, Coffin then has fabricated elongated, double-pronged caps that suggest the horned heads of antelope. Secured into a seven-ton boulder, a large working wheel operates the cables strung to each pole, enabling the viewer to manipulate the poles into a rising and falling motion not unlike those funny little “perpetual motion” birds that dip their beaks in water. The monumental scale insures an undulating, stately motion.Painted in strong shades of yellow, blue-green, maroon and black, the work takes on the spirit of a carousel. The viewer will find it hard to resist turning the large wheel controlling the antelope-like triumvirate.

No longer rare but still uncommon is the invitation to touch a work of art. Coffin believes in that kind of hands-on interaction as part of experiencing a work, and it works.

To bring large-scale sculpture for a temporary museum exhibition is possible only with the cooperation of many resources and the imaginative support of those who understand the unique impact of three-dimensional, and, in this case, kinetic design.

To experience such immense works, the spectator usually would have to travel to the work. That we have the opportunity to view the mammoth creations of Zachary Coffin at the Birmingham Museum is rare good fortune for everyone interested, or just curious, about one direction in contemporary sculpture. (More of Coffin’s work is on display at 2309 First Ave. North through Saturday.)

In this instance, a local company, Wade Sand & Gravel, has provided the means for Coffin, as artist-in-residence, to create these marvelous, witty and provocative works. Everyone should be grateful for the time, work and support that has enabled Zachary Coffin to realize these gigantean and engaging works.

James R. Nelson is the visual arts critic for The Birmingham News.

B&W Magazine: 1997

 

Full searchable text below :

In Juxtaposition with Inertia

Zach Coffin’s huge sculptures do what you’d least expect—they move

black & white

April 30, 1998

Page 42

 

By Ned Oldham

 

Zach Coffin is working on a fountain for his upcoming show at the Birmingham Brewery. It’s a half-ton hunk of quartz-veined granite, with a spout hole about the diameter of a half-dollar. The water will burble gently through the spout hole and stream across the granite, turning the whitish substrate mockingbird gray and the black flecks blacker, and adding a hint of brown to the quartz’s oyster gray. What’s truly unique about this fountain is that it will be mounted on a heavy steel spring, and you’ll be able to tap the 1000-pound hunk of granite with your finger and set it wobbling while the water dribbles off all around.

Right now, the granite head of the fountain, entitled Spring is sitting on the oil-stained pavement at Coffin’s outdoor workspace in Powderly. The owner of a machine shop there allowed Coffin to clear an adjacent fenced-in lot of industrial debris and a few old cars in return for the use of the space and the massive, steel-manipulating tools of the shop.

Since Coffin makes all the steel parts of his sculptures from raw material, he needs access to a machine shop’s industrial-strength steel cutters.  He gained a solid practical machine-shop and welding knowledge when he worked as a drill-rig machinist in San Francisco before he came to Birmingham about two years ago. A good deal of his work involves moving its cumbersome steel and granite elements; hence Coffin’s two cranes—a knuckle boom (a crane with a joint) mounted in his Ford F900 and a 3000-pound lift hand crane that stands like a door frame over his steel topped worktable.

The stone portions of most of the pieces for the upcoming May 1 show are strewn about the asphalt work space, receiving finishing touches—some surfaces being polished glass smooth, and blemishes worked away.

A mistake is found—a chip at the edge of a mounting point on Two Hole Spring Bench, a polished granite slab that will be mounted on two leaf springs to make a bouncy bench. “Granite is very unforgiving,” says Coffin, grimacing at the tiny flaw that will ultimately mean replacing the entire slab.

Until recently he’d worked mostly with steel. “Before, I was dealing with rock as just a heavy weight, and that’s all it was,” he says, “Like with the Birmingham Museum pieces, the stone is on the ground, stable. Now I’m trying to leap to the next level where I put the stone in the air, using the flexibility of steel. And then the stone does the absolute last thing you’d expect…” Coffin taps another stone mounted on a spring, with one finger and points. “That’s a stone. Wiggling.”

He hangs a steel bracket, painted a deep and creamy purple by the auto body shop across the street, in a carved-out place on the base of his Human Scale. He describes the scales elements: a stone counterweight, an oak platform big enough for a person, a hydraulic shock absorber system (“So everything happens slow and gentle, he says).

“The ‘scale’ is a concept I’ve been working on for several years. I want to do a series of scales,” he says. “I have a plan for a human-powered drawbridge/scale, a one-way bridge. It comes down for you as you go out on it. Or you can find a balance point along it, and then it has all sorts of connotations because once you cross over, it goes back up. To me, that’s a really profound concept, and I ‘d love to build it someday.”

“I’m interested in putting people in juxtaposition with the inert,” he explains, “so they get a feeling of their own ability to influence the environment, that with the right tools, they can lift up that piece of stone. I’m interested in people gaining something on a very visceral level from that.”

When asked if he had ever thought of making something that would really crush someone, Coffin says, “Absolutely not. I’m trying to avoid having things that crush…I mean the pieces that I make could conceivably. That’s one of my worst nightmares. I’ve got a piece in mind that would take a 10-ton block of stone and hold it in the air about this high,” he indicates a level somewhere over head with his hand, “In the same way that [industrial sculptor] Richard Serra has taken these huge curved pieces of steel that you walk past and you can feel them looming over you. And the Spinning Rock, a piece with two heavy rocks that spin around a pole; you get that going and try to slow it down and go ‘Oh. This is incredibly heavy.’ It’s not particularly dangerous, but you can feel it.”

“There was a time, maybe 50 years ago, when every young boy—boys mainly—had an erector set and learned basic rules, basic physical rules,” he says. “Every single person knew how to make use of a lever bar, a basic pry-bar, which is actually quite a difficult skill and amazingly powerful. I’d like people to get some perspective on their own mass, some feeling of mortality. And I’d also like to empower people. I’m trying to make really clear machines.”

 

Zach Coffin’s industrial sculpture exhibit Stone, Steel and Motion opens on May1, with a reception from 6-10 p.m. at the Birmingham Brewery, 3118 Third Avenue South. The show will be on view Saturday and Sunday, May 2 and 3 from noon to         4 p.m. at the Brewery and by appointment. You can email Coffin at zackattack@earthlink.net or visit his webpage at http://www.gravitybites.com

 

B&W: 1997

Man Of Steel

Sculptor Zachary Coffin

 

black & white

March 1997

page 42

 

By Alison Nichols

 


When Zachary Coffin begins talking about his work, he runs the gamut of description from Eastern religions, to the plight of the working class, to the properties of metals and the dynamics of movement against inert forces. “Really what I wanted to do,” he says stopping abruptly in mid-thought, “was to take a huge rock, shove a giant bolt through it and hang it from something.” Finally, the artist speaks.

 

Coffin works out of shed at Wade Sand and Gravel Company, and spends part of his day selecting boulders from the quarry as well as collecting other materials to use in his huge, industrial sculptures. The scale of the sculptures alone is startling, but combined with the weight of the materials, you have to wonder how someone actually works with a boulder of limestone or a slab of steel, much less makes it appear to be light. Yet all of Coffin’s sculptures are playful and interactive. One structure, made of two large rocks connected to a metal rod, was inspired by a Tibetan Prayer Wheel. A gentle push and the rock wheel turns.

 

Defying gravity is at the heart of several sculptures in which rocks of varying sizes hang from arched metal bases. With just a flick of the hand, Coffin makes the rock bounce wildly. “I’ve lived in industrial wastelands all over the place,” Coffin explains, “trying to understand friction and weight.”

 

Because Coffin is a student of mechanics and structure, his work is highly engineered. But he credits working directly with the materials with giving him the spontaneity to create work that will transform the viewer into an active participant. This is done by attaching weighted pivots, bells with pull cords, anything that will draw the viewer to the sculpture.

 

Coffin has been building large- scale sculpture for five years. A native of Atlanta, Coffin attended the Cooper Union School of Art in New York City. Ha has installed work in five shows throughout the New York area, and has shown three large works in Atlanta during the Olympics. Currently he is working on pieces that will be installed for his March 16 show in the sculpture garden at the Birmingham Museum of Art. One standout piece (although still in progress at print time) is Antelumpen, a play on the word antelope and more of Coffin’s deeper meanings that one is encouraged to explore or not. The sculpture is comprised of three steel poles welded to a limestone boulder. A steel head is attached to the top of each pole, suddenly transforming the piece into a heard of antelope. Pullcords located at the base of the sculpture allow the viewer to make the heads move. “I want my work to have a sense of humor,” Coffin offers almost unnecessarily. Two other pieces that will be in the show are Finnibar and Bouncing Bench.

 

Zachary Coffin will show his large-scale interactive works in the sculpture garden at the Birmingham Museum of Art, March 16 through the Fall of 1997. The artist will also give a slide lecture titled, Adventures in the Industrial Jungle at the museum, March 23 at 3 p.m., in the Steiner Auditorium. After the lecture, a reception for the artist will be held in the sculpture garden.

 

Coffin’s kinetic sculptures and works on paper will also be on show for one-night only, March 21, at the Omni Foods Warehouse, 2309 1st Avenue, North, 5:30-9:30 p.m. For more information about this show, call 879-8731.

 

 

 

NY Times: 2000

In an Industrial Boneyard, Artists Use Steel and Ore to Produce, Well, Art

 The New York Times

Wednesday April 19, 2000

Page 3

By Thomas Spencer

BIRMINGHAM Ala. It is an oddly appropriate spot for an artists’ colony, in the hulking shadows of Republic Steel’s abandoned Thomas works, where iron-ore blast furnaces and coke ovens once inflamed the sky of this former steel town.

While he worked in an old railroad repair shop, assembling his massive metal sculptures with an industrial crane, Zachary Coffin, a sculptor, occasionally felt the earth shake from dynamic explosions deep in the adjacent quarries. These are still mined for the limestone and dolomite now used in the construction industry, but once used in making iron.

Surrounded by forces of creation and destruction, Mr. Coffin passed a constantly shifting moonscape every day: gray mountains of finely ground gravel over which red dump trucks and yellow earthmovers crawled like ants. In the industrial boneyard around his workshop, he combed for artifacts of twisted metal and melted ore to incorporate into is works.

Birmingham was built on iron and steel. But its blast furnaces have largely gone dark, and have been replaced by the banking and health care industries, which now power its economic engine.  But a former ironworks is back in the business of metal creation, albeit of a different sort and scale.

Mr. Coffin came to Birmingham from San Francisco as a sculptor-in-residence with the Thomas Art Projects, a collaboration between the Birmingham Museum of Art and Robin Wade, a local arts patron and the owner of Wade Sand and Gravel, in the city.

Mr. Wade’s company owns the site of the former coke works and ironworks and still operates a 650-acre limestone quarry on the property. In 1993, Mr. Wade began offering the use of the Thomas works industrial buildings to visiting artists. The Birmingham Museum of Art had just completed a renovation, which added an outdoor sculpture garden the size of a football field.

The museum invited a New Orleans sculptor, John Scott, to work at the site, use the equipment and materials and create the garden’s first installation. Mr. Scott’s works are on permanent display in the garden.

Since then, many local artists, including glass blowers and water colorists, as well as artists from elsewhere in the United States and Europe, have worked at the site and helped fill the sculpture garden. “The place produced so much energy as an industrial site, and it was sad to see it shut down,” Ms. Wade said. “It’s gratifying to have the new energy there from the artists.”

Mr. Coffin put a seven-ton limestone boulder from the quarry in his work “Antelumpen,” which sits on a street corner near the museum. A network of metal cables secures three blue-green streetlight poles to the boulder. The yellow metal heads that top the poles look like the horns of antelopes. In addition, a large wheel connected to the cables allows viewers to set the sculpture in motion; as the gigantic poles pivot, the metal heads duck and rise, as if the beasts were running.

Mr. Coffin remained in Birmingham after his year and half residency at the Thomas site. He found the city conducive to his large sculptures, offering affordable work space, access to heavy machinery, cooperative local machine shops and scrap yards littered with inexpensive stainless steel and other hard-to-find metals.

“The work I do, because of the scale, is very akin to heavy industry,” Mr. Coffin said. “Industry, like art is about transformation.”

 

 

 


 

 

 

Interior Design: 2003

Temple of Gravity article in Interior Design

Producing a large-scale sculpture in the Nevada desert involves challenge far beyond shipping and materials setbacks — it’s difficult to stay focused when the cars painted like fish and topless women on bicycles keep passing by. “Everything takes five times longer out here,” explains Zachary Coffin. An Atlanta artist, Coffin is also the manager of Gravity Group, which designed the Temple of Gravity for this years Burning Man festival, a 30,000-person gathering celebrating freedom of expression.

 

During the weeklong annual event, Gravity Group’s 80-ton open-air dome hovered above the playa, ironically appearing to defy the force being glorified. Five massive slabs of rough-hewn granite hung from the structure’s 24-foot-high steel frame, topped by the LEDs that sent blue lights dancing down a clear acrylic tube at exactly 9.82 meters per second squared—the acceleration of gravity. On chilly desert nights, a wood-burning fire pendulum became the installations most alluring feature.

 

Missed the festival and looking for a place to worship gravity’s mystery? By the end of the year the Temple will move to the upscale We Care Spa in Desert Hot Springs, California.

 

—Meaghan O’Neill

 

Interior Design

December 2003

 

NYTimes 2003

Well I guess it is nice to have your work pictured on the front of the NYTimes Art Section. Captioned “art” this image ran alongside a fairly irrelevant article about how Burning Man isn’t perfect. The kind of article the mainstream press has been running about Burning Man for years….

World Sculpture News 2003

—TEXT—-

WORLD SCULPTURE NEWS

AUTUMN 2003

THE UNITED STATES

Temple of Gravity

The Temple of Gravity, a rock and steel sculpture designed to explore its relationship to the force of gravity and installed in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert as part of the Burning Man arts festival, is scheduled to move to a new temporary home in Desert Hot Springs, California, in December 2003.

The Temple of Gravity is an 80-ton public art project designed and fabricated in southwest Atlanta, comprising five 17,000-pound granite slabs angled to hang between 6 and 12 feet above ground level. The supporting structure is a steel dome which also bears the weight of a suspended fire cauldron. The design is open to the sky, without a roof or walls. Its wood-burning fire provides both light and heat as a metaphor for the structure of the earth.

This sculpture is the brain-child of the Atlanta-based sculptor Zachary Coffin and created in collaboration with Keith Helfrich, Corbett Griffith, and Paul Jorgenson, who formed Gravity Group, LLC to fund the work, began with US$20,000 commission from the Burning Man arts festival.

Susana Lombardi, owner of We Care Spa, Inc. has purchased 5% of Gravity Group, LLC, in exchange for the opportunity to exhibit the sculpture as the artistic centerpiece of her holistic healing retreat. As part of the deal between Lombardi and Gravity Group, LLC, the Temple of Gravity will be installed at We Care Spa for three years from the last week of December, 2003. The arrangement also leaves open the possibility of installing the sculpture at additional locations during the period, with an eventual return home to Desert Hot Springs. “We wanted to build in a degree of flexibility in case the sculpture is called upon to travel again.” Says Keith Helfrich of Gravity Group, LLC.

AJC: May 2008

Kinetic Art

Botanical Garden goes on the move with marvels in motion

The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Page E-1

By Katie Leslie

kleslie@ajc.com

On a recent day at the Botanical Garden, children crowded around a skewered boulder, their petite frames pushing and spinning the massive 5-ton rock created by Zachary Coffin.

“I love this because it keeps them from climbing on everything else,” said Kim Cresswell, mother to one of the children pushing the stone Coffin pulled from Lithonia.

The piece is one of nearly 25 works showcased in the garden’s spring exhibit, “Sculpture in Motion,” featuring kinetic art nestled among the growing landscape. While most of the pieces are wind-powered, others transform from sound, magnetics, water, touch and solar energy.

Coffin’s piece, Rockspinner6, is the only sculpture by an Atlanta artist, and moves by touch and sunlight.

“It’s always been an interest of mine to engage viewers who are not necessarily ‘art lovers,’ which is why so much of my work is public,” Coffin wrote in an e-mail. “The ABG is a great place for people to encounter sculpture that is outside of their normal understanding of sculpture, and hopefully plant new ideas about art, particularly in the young.”

Blending botanical beauty and art to attract a wide-range of viewers was precisely what executive director Mary Pat Matheson had in mind when she joined the garden in 2002.

“There are lots of ways to get people to the botanical garden. No 1—exhibits,” she said. “And in a museum with no walls, it’s a lost easier to view art here and not necessarily need to know anything about it.”

While the garden can count on flora fanatics, it uses exhibits to attract people with other interests. The 2004 “Chihuly in the Garden” exhibit by acclaimed artist Dale Chihuly drew a record-breaking 288,000 visitors. Along with the 2006 Niki de Saint Phalle exhibit, the Chihuly brought in art lovers and gardeners alike, while last years Dave Rogers’ “Big Bugs and Killer Plants” exhibit was popular with young families.

While Matheson doesn’t expect “Sculpture in Motion” to break Chihuly records, she does hope the show, touted to be the largest exhibit of its kind in U.S. history, will draw a wide audience, from parents and children to engineers curious about a sculpture’s mechanics.

 

Idea born in Atlanta

Unlike traveling exhibits, “Sculpture in Motion” was born within the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s gates, specifically, in exhibition manager Catheleen Cooke’s mind. When considering a number of concepts for the spring 2008 show, Cooke had a eureka moment.

“There was a common element of movement and interactivity, and how nature interacts with art,” she said.

She then began researching kinetic artists, eventually calling Brigitte MicMacker of Sculpturesite Gallery in San Francisco. With MicMacker, Cooke toured artists’ studios in Northern California to select the pieces. MicMacker, who has a background in landscape design, became the guest curator of “Sculpture in Motion.”

“It was kismet,” Cooke said.

The exhibit opens with a landmark piece in kinetic sculpture history, Cooke explained — “Two Lines Oblique” by George Rickey, largely considered a pioneer in kinetics.

The late artist’s 34-foot-tall Y-shaped stainless-steel sculpture, on loan from the High Museum of Art, stands at the garden’s admissions entrance. From her second-floor office window, Matheson watches its shiny pointed arms with a span of 43 feet move slowly in the breeze.

“It’s moving with such simple elegance,” she said.

Except for the Rickey sculpture, all of the exhibited art is for sale, ranging in price from $3500 to $120,000.

Cooke and crew used maquettes — models — of many of the sculptures to test how they would react in Atlanta’s weather.

“A lot of artists live in coastal areas or in a valley, so guess what, they have big whopping winds,” she said.

Most of the pieces sway and transform in Georgia’s breezes, save for a heavy cylindrical sculpture called, ironically, “Dance With the Wind” by artist Ralfonso. Movement aside, the piece has its own appeal, and is a maquette of a 30-foot-tall piece commissioned for the Beijing Olympics.

Nearby in the conservatory’s desert exhibit, a thick black liquid, charged by magnetically charged microfine particles, coils itself into the shape of a spindly witch hat. Holding its spiky shape, the liquid sculpture suddenly collapses, and begins drawing upward again into a cone.

This piece by artist Sachiko Kodama is nestled in what garden workers call “the spiny forest,” a dry, cactus-covered area designed to keep wandering fingers at bay.

Another puzzling sculpture, “Self Organizing Still Life, Terra Incognita” by David Fried, resides in the Fuqua Orchid Center. There, in a room padded with orchids, balls of varying sizes rest on a thick granite slab — until moved by sand.

“The kids stand in here and scream all day,” Cooke said. “We try to discourage that.”

 

Art Show

“Sculpture in Motion”

 

Runs through October at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; until 10 p.m. Thursdays; closed Mondays. Adults $12; seniors and ages 3 to 17 $9: members and children under 3 free. Cocktails in the Garden held 6-10 p.m. Thursdays. 404-876-5859, www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org

 

 

AJC: Fall 2008

Sculptor’s art teases gravity

The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Page E-1

By Katie Leslie

kleslie@ajc.com

 

Moving five tons of rock is easier than you might think, at least if Zachary Coffin has something to do with it. The Atlanta-born Coffin is the artist behind Rockspinner, a series of kinetic sculptures featuring skewered boulders that can be turned by hand or powered by solar energy. Rockspinner6, built in Atlanta, is now on display at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, one of 30 pieces featured in the garden’s “Sculpture in Motion: Art Choreographed by Nature” exhibit through the end of October.

“It’s kind of interesting — it seems to have a lot of crossover appeal,” he says of Rockspinner6. “You know people will go to a museum of modern art and say ‘My kindergartner can do that.’ I haven’t had that kind of response.”

But just how did Coffin, raised in Virginia-Highland and schooled at the Cooper Union in New York, become interested in boulders?

“There was some point back in art school where I realized the thing I wanted to do is build giant toys,” he said.

He got his first real chance while working at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, when a construction crew offered him a boulder they unearthed. That rock became his first piece, Finnibar, now on display in his sculpture park in Atlanta’s West End neighborhood. He completed the first Rockspinner 11 years ago in Birmingham and continues developing his technique.

“I’m always courting gravity and have definitely had my misunderstandings with gravity,” Coffin says, declining to get specific. “I’ve had some mishaps that looking back I thought, ‘That could’ve ended my career.’”

Uncrushed, Coffin forges ahead from his studio in Atlanta. The married father of two is now working on “The Horn Section,” a 36-foot-high rock and steel sculpture to be installed next spring in the Castleberry Hill’s Cleopas R. Johnson Park.

Having his work displayed in a public venue is the best of both worlds, he says.

GPTV: 2009

 

Short video clip about the installation of Rockspinner 6 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Kinetic Sculpture Show.

Derivatives and artifacts

 

 

One fascinating thing about building a large scale work in CAD space is the incidental creation of all kinds of interesting visual artifacts. A three dimensional object must be both defined mathematically in a way that can be processed by a machine as well as represented on a screen in a way that is both understood and manipulated by a human eye/brain. The designers of CAD software have created all kinds of methods to help in this process. These include varying line-weight to help the eye understand hierarchy (something also considered critical in better art-schools) as well as the creation of all kinds of reference lines/planes and other visual aids to help make sense of the object being created. If one is building objects that are more than simple shapes and other than right angles, things get very complicated quickly.

I am currently working on a large wind activated commission that among other things will have “sails” made up of hundreds of stainless steel bird-like forms. These bird forms will be welded together to mimic a flock of birds. But in order to keep the sails light and strong, we need to force these forms to create a complex curve as this is the most effective way to utilize the strength of metal in thin sheet form. You might think that car bodies are all curve because it looks cool, but the real reason is that if you stamp a sheet of metal into a complex curve, it becomes remarkably stronger and rigid for the weight and amount of material.

So as part of this commission, I have been working with a brilliant guy named Dallas to find a way to piece together a form of many individual pieces in a way that forms a complex curve (think about the surface of a sphere). As metal doesn’t want to behave this way, a method has to be found to force it into position. The method we have been working on is to break the curve into triangles (like a geodesic dome) and put small holes in the bird shapes that correspond with the corners of the triangle. By aligning the pin holes, it should be possible to build a large, complex curve that is very light and strong.

For some reason, it makes sense to keep a file of all of these forms stacked on top of one another as a layered line drawing. Here is our first test run of the bird forms (about a third of one of the sails) with all of their reference holes as a stacked line drawing, this is the file we are using to laser cut the forms and will be building a full scale test soon to see if it works as planned. You can see the alignment holes as well as the larger holes that will be used to attach the pieces to the support frame. Each bird form is unique and, like a giant jigsaw puzzle, must be in its proper place and orientation for the system to work.

Compound Pendulum

Some years back, I was asked by Mark and his wife Jane to consider building a medium scale work for their house. I agreed to come and look and found an artful pile of BMW rims in the spot where the final sculpture would go. We toured the grounds, making a show of considering other sites, but it was pretty clear where a sculpture was needed.

The process of building the final work, was a lot of fun. Mark is a cardiologist whose mother was deeply involved in modern art in Denver. So he had a good sense of both the artistic process and an appreciation of the technology it takes to make a work like this . We started with a knife edge for the pendulum bearing, but that didn’t work and we moved to a double radial bearing which worked wonderfully and lent the work an amazing motion. This work is an example of a compound pendulum, where a weight above the pivot point less than the main weight acts to make the pendulum’s cycle longer. The closer these weights are to equal (in relation to the distance from the pivot) the longer the cycle is. I would love to explore this on a much larger scale sometime in the future. (more…)

Video 2004

This is a fun little video that my wife and I edited in 2004. Kind of a nice snapshot of the state of art in 2004.
 

Burning Man Blog

Nice interview and write up on the Burning Man Blog:

 

 

Interview with Ignite.me

http://ignite.me/articles/artist-interviews/artist-interview-with-gravity-defying-sculptor-zachary-coffin

http://ignite.me/articles/artist-interviews/artist-interview-with-gravity-defying-sculptor-zachary-coffin/

AJC Rockspinner

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution Website

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution Website