Monumental sculptor plans small-scale showBy Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
Employees of Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Milwaukee walk past "Peter John," Raimondiís ode to his father. "Bravo" welcomes visitors to the University of Richmond. "Grace" soars above a Fort Myers, Fla., airport, while "Dance of the Cranes" pirouettes at an Omaha airport. "Artorius," Raimondiís take on King Arthur, reigns over Uxbridge, England. His sculptures are in 27 states and several foreign countries.
A 30-year survey of Raimondiís sculptures at the Butler Institute of American Artís Trumbull Branch, Howland, does not deliver the impact of Raimondiís art in its sky-scraping glory. You canít uproot "Dance of the Cranes," which is 60 feet tall, and ship it off for a museum show.
But, the survey follows the development of Raimondiís technique and the expansion of his palette, and allows a glimpse of his working method.
Known as monumental sculpture, Raimondiís pieces can be enjoyed on a much smaller scale. While only one or two monumental versions of any piece are made, he has 10 small-scale versions cast and three garden- or terrace-scale renditions.
The Butler show -- situated inside and outside the building -- features garden-scale versions, which are roughly human size, "JAT," a 30-foot-tall monumental on permanent display, and drawings and paintings that help Raimondi work through to a final design.
Raimondi, 52, said while he considers the small versions studies for the largest pieces, "I think they work on their own, as an independent work of art. If they didnít, I wouldnít produce them."
Pointing out his wolf-inspired, "Lupus," he said, "You donít have to know that there is one 40 feet."
The native of Chelsea, Mass., made his first monumental sculpture, "Cage," at 21, showing an early ambition that is a key to success.
"I guess you have to want to be president, or want to be a movie star," he said of how someone becomes a monumental sculptor. "You have to want to be something really big."
In the book "John Raimondi: Sculptor" William Corbett said Raimondi has not developed a signature style. Each work takes into account those who commissions it, the theme chosen, past artists and his own desires.
With this flexibility, Raimondi moves easily between pure abstraction and literal representation, often combining the two.
"Itís whatís ringing true in the motif. Itís the theme that is guiding me. I donít have any interest in doing statues. All thatís been done. But I like to do things that are evocative."
"Athleta," which honors athletes, merges three separate figures that can be discerned, but they also blend into the abstract. "Tigris" is easily recognizable as a tiger without falling into the realm of statues. "Dance of the Cranes" implies the birds with feather-like flourishes.
Raimondiís early sculptures were geometrical and purely abstract. Over the years, he accepted figurative themes and expressive freedom. His latest works evoke smoke and fire more than stone or bone.
In some cases, the comparison is literal. "Pyre" is a Holocaust memorial in which bodies seemingly ascend in a chimney shape that Corbett said descends from R.B. Kitajís proposed symbol for the Holocaust.
Raimondi described the new work "Billie," inspired by jazz singer Billie Holliday, as "very, very flowing. ĎBillieí looks like itís growing, sinuously like a flame, smoke or something. I wanted to do a piece that is reminiscent of her sound, of her life, the sadness of her life, of her music."
Raimondi, a resident of Palm Beach, Fla., and New York, embraces all aspects of his career. He snapped most of the photographs in "John Raimondi: Sculptor," a process that required him to drive around the United States and Europe, and reunited him with works he hadnít seen in years. Although he wouldnít make the early sculptures in the same way if he were to take up their themes today, heís not about to rework them.
"I look back and think I was 21 years old when I created the sculpture of ĎCage.í Itís not bad for a 21-year-old kid. Now, looking back, itís serious sculpture. Good, bad or indifferent itís real sculpture. I wouldnít change any of it because thatís my history."
The show runs through Aug. 27. Information: (330) 609-9900.
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