Michael Walsh, a Pittsburgh native, recently returned to Pittsburgh after seven years in Oakland, California working on sculptural projects in the Bay area. His latest exhibit, “Intersection-Dissection-Connection,” is being featured at Box Heart Gallery on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield until April 22.
Walsh’s work captures the natural dynamism and explosive elements of graffiti art in the three-dimensional realm of sculpture. Walsh: “I started out as a graffiti artist— it just made sense to me, this stuff, applying it to sculpture— it just wants to jump off the two-dimensional surface and become three-dimensional with its movement— it wants to dance– it wants to stress line— it wants to stress volume and flow.”
With his new experiments in sculpture, Walsh aims to bridge the gap between the “tactile” world of “hand-carved” sculpture and the “digital-technological” world of industry by combining traditional pattern casting with 3D printing, while also working with his team of architectural and digital imaging experts to create massive pieces of interactive kinetic art. Walsh: “I am interested in exploring the relationship between time-honored industrial processes and their intersections with digital processing in the arts.”
His largest piece to date, The Cosmic Carousel, or the “Nexus project” as he refers to it, was featured at the Burning Man festival in Nevada in 2012. Walsh views The Cosmic Carousel as a “social experiment,” an elaborate kinetic piece which depends on human interaction in order to function. “With The Carousel, people are encouraged to engage with each other— existing together in their own little revolving universe for a moment in time— it’s my response to the digital age.”
Walsh’s Carousel is meant to inspire people to put down their devices and focus on the current moment, to have a real human experience and talk face-to-face with others, interacting both bodily and verbally. The Carousel depends on “teamwork,” not only in its construction, but in its usage as well. This year, The Carousel will be touring at specific locations along the West Coast. It will be featured at the Bay Area Maker Faire in May.
Walsh has stated that he desires to experiment with the “material limitations” of sculpture by utilizing extreme angles, rigid line, and fluid movement. The results are balanced pieces of emotional expression and response, “stream of consciousness” experiments captured in bronze, iron, plastic, steel, acrylic, and nickel. Walsh: “When you’re not building an object for usage you have the ability to allow it to flow more organically in that you are actually trying to get out of its way instead of forcing its direction, allowing it to animate itself.”
Walsh is working as a part of a collective of artists, Catalyst Metal Arts, who believe that it is “extremely appropriate that metal art be the primary cultural-visual component to jumpstart the city’s next cultural renaissance.” Walsh: “I see a different breath being blown into this place— [Young people] are saying ‘yes’ to more innovative art, more progressive ideas, and more experimental experiences.” Walsh also believes that sculptural art is an important part of “keeping the heritage of metal work alive— it is [after all] our heritage as Pittsburghers, and an important part of our current progress as an industrial city.”
Together with the consortium of artists at Catalyst Metal Arts, Walsh wants to encourage artists from around the world to visit Pittsburgh and become a part of the city’s next cultural renaissance. Walsh: “Pittsburgh is such a central location on the East Coast— with our prospective residencies we hope to encourage the movement of creatives through Pittsburgh, instead of around it. We are really focused on inviting visiting artists [both locally and globally] to come and work alongside us.”
On April 20th at 7pm, Walsh will be hosting a “Casual Conversation” at Box Heart Gallery. Walsh: “I want to talk one-on-one with people so that I can learn from them— I find that I learn the most from people who approach a piece of art unbiased and perhaps even unfamiliar with the typical discourses that take place in art circles. I also want to appeal to the community’s sense of identity, and engage Pittsburgh in a discussion of its history as a steel city— I want to demonstrate the future of metal in art.”