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March 20th – May 9th, 2020
Artist: Peter Millett | Jeremy Thomas
Jeremy Thomas is in our current artist exhibition Repetition, a two-person show featuring works by Peter Millett and Thomas. Both artists are pragmatic in their artistic approach, adhering to a process-based practice that employs the use of recurring forms to create inspired sculptures. Millett constructs distinct structures through an additive process born from intuition and curiosity. Thomas inflates sumptuous metal shapes with pressurized air to bring them into full dimensionality. Each artist explores a geometric language of shape and space, underscored by a high degree of skill and imagination.
Jeremy Thomas’ sculptures are made of steel; cut, welded, and folded into geometric shapes. The metal is heated to well over 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit at which point the metal becomes as supple and elastic as clay. Thomas then inflates the forms with air; here chance comes into action as metal and air interact. Finally, he uses different techniques such as powder coating, acrylic urethane and rust patina to create vibrant surfaces that reference industrial machinery, cosmetics, muscle cars, and aged and oxidized abandoned items. The combination of color, material, and sensual forms sets up an interesting juxtaposition. The forms, solid as they are, seem to rest at some ineffable point between chance and intention, lighthearted and serious, feminine and masculine.
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b. 1973, Oklahoma
Admirers of Jeremy Thomas’ sculpture artist should be grateful to a thief. Thomas came to the College of Santa Fe to study Studio Arts as a painter and printmaker, both of which he had been doing since high school, even apprenticing with a master printmaker in his native Oklahoma. However, one semester while moving out of his dormitory, with boxes and bags piled around, the wooden box which held all of his brushes and painting supplies went missing. One moment it was on the curb, the next it was gone. Thus ended Thomas’ career as a painter. The next semester he took a sculpting class and never turned back.
While Thomas is happy to converse about theory and concept, Jeremy Thomas is most content thinking of himself as a maker of objects rather than an “artist”. For Jeremy Thomas, the label of “artist” is a mantle placed onto a person by society, which in the current day has as much to do with trends as it does with the production of great work. He is insistent that making objects is a natural impulse for all humans. Some people make pies or spread-sheets, some make books or sculptures.
It is the pragmatic that draws Thomas. Asked about his influences he asserts that his primary influences do not come from the realm of art but rather from everyday living. “I don’t eat, sleep, and breathe art,” he comments. His discovery of metal-working arose in a similar, practical way. Thomas had been sculpting with stone and asked someone to show him how to forge his own chisel.
This was the start of his exploration of forging techniques and after a time he gave up working with stone to work with metal. One of the key aspects of blacksmithing that intrigued Thomas was fact that it isn’t instantly gratifying, and it poses questions that aren’t easily solved. He interned with Tom Joyce (recipient of a MacArthur genius grant) and later worked in Santa Fe as a blacksmith creating items as diverse as fireplace screens and light fixtures, but always continuing to make the objects of “art”.
His current inflatable steel sculpting technique is something he stumbled upon during a demo for one of his sculpture classes. Steel, Thomas says, has a clay-like malleability at high temperatures. He welds forms together which can be heated and injected with pressurized air, causing them to inflate and “grow” into their final shape. The final pieces contain paradoxes: metal molded by air, sensual forms in forceful fetish-finish primary colors gleaned from tractor manufacturers. These sculptures are changeable (as one continuously finds new approaches in their creases, angles, and wrinkles); they allow a dialogue between viewer and work. Thomas says he engages in an ongoing dialogue, a give and take, with his materials. He says, “Art is the science of play”, a creed that Thomas takes to heart, both in his work and in his life.
Artsy Editorial: Jeremy Thomas Breathes Life (and Air) Into Steel
Jeremy Thomas describes his sculptural practice as an ongoing relationship between material, form, and the intense physical act of manipulation. Though his work is popular among collectors, his process is better known to blacksmiths than anyone in the fine art community. Thomas’s graceful fusion of blue-collar work ethic and sculptural practice creates works just as impactful in the outdoors as they are in gallery settings.
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