A piece of Texas
The phrase “go big or go home” was seemingly invented for bronze artists, particularly ones who like to complicate their life with ambitious projects many years in the making. It’s certainly an idea Richard Loffler likely felt when he undertook a massive new exhibition opening October 19 at Insight Gallery in Frederickburg, Texas.
“I’ve been planning this one for close to five years,” the Canadian sculptor says. “It’s always a good idea for an artist to be self-focused in the arena with a show like this. I just really want to show people what I’ve been working on, and show them how I’m experimenting with different textures and growing to be the best artist I can be.” Loffler’s show, titled Wild Treasures, features nine brand-new bronzes, as well as nine final editions from older works and a dozen works that only have two or three editions left. “I’ve been putting some pieces away, just saving them for an occasion just like this,” the artist says. Of the new works, Loffler has turned his attention to Texas subject matter to honor the home state of Insight. Works include jackrabbits, javelin, elk, bobcat and, appropriately, a Texas longhorn.
Besides the Lone Star State, another unifying factor among the new pieces is Loffler’s ability to render and explore different types of texture in bronze. In Coign of Vantage, he creates fur that does not distort or hide muscle definition on a climbing bobcat that may be peering down on its next prey. Cloak & Daggers is an owl piece that captures a fluffing gesture that birds of prey often do when they are more relaxed or resting. Elsewhere in the show, Loffler captures bear fur, bunny tails, horse manes and duck feathers, each created with the natural character of the animal in mind.
“Sculpture is important in two ways: the silhouette, where outside line meets space; and then something called mapping texture, the areas where your eyes will flow around the pieces,” Loffler says. “When you get close to a bronze you have to be able to move through it without losing people. Everything has to flow. I’ll add some texture to slow you down or a line
to speed you up. It’s like a movie: your emotions go up and down based on what you’re seeing. It’s all subconsciously happening, but at the end of the day these design elements help guide someone emotionally through a piece.”
Loffler continues, “When you move through a bronze, the artist has command over you and your emotions. Artists like George Carlson know this, as do artists like Tim Shinabarger and Ken Bunn. They sculpt so that the large forms and dark and light grab you in, and once you’re in close the texture will guide you through the work.”
The artist, who is based outside Saskatchewan, works primarily from life and spends a great deal of time just looking at the real animals. He recently spent time in Quebec on a ranch working with cattle for a large commission. “I was right in the corral with them, just trying to capture them from life,” he adds. Back in the studio he will work up dozens of little clay sculptures as he refines the gestures and poses. “I live with each work for a long time. Coign of Vantage was in my studio for eight years as I worked on parts I did like and reworked parts I didn’t. And as you finish more and more pop up and you just start working each new one. Eventually, it starts getting closer and closer to being done,” he says.
The artist relates his own process to one undertaken by Auguste Rodin for a sculpture of writer Victor Hugo. “Rodin had Hugo come to a café across from his studio because he would only sit for short amounts of time. Rodin would run across the street and study Victor Hugo’s head in a certain position, and then run back and sculpt it. He would do that constantly, just run back and forth,” Loffler says. “It was a wonderful piece, and he first just did the front and sides. Then the back. The he worked on the positions at the quarter turns, then the eighths, then the sixteenths. Eventually you have enough information that you’re done. Don’t look at the inside, just start on the outside edge and work your way in.”
Besides a number of new Texas works, Loffler will also be showing a selection of rodeo and bucking horse images, including Life by a Rope, featuring a rider on a massive airborne bull, and Making Rainbows, a leaping horse that seems to spring up out of a cloud of dust at his feet. Many other works are wildlife pieces that include moose, burros, whitetail deer, foals, bison and a bear scene titled The Bird Watcher, in which a bear casually admires a trio of ducks in the water at his feet. The work is special to Loffler because he traded an edition of the piece for a fox painting by Bob Kuhn. “Bob never really traded much, but he liked the piece and asked me if I wanted to trade. It took me all of one second to say yes. He asked what I’d like for it. I chose a red fox because he painted them so wonderfully,” he says. “Not only did he paint the fox, but he also sent a drawing of The Bird Watcher in Conté crayon. It was unexpected and not part of the deal, but that’s the kind of man he was.”
Wild Treasures will be on view through October 31.
Legacy, bronze, 17 x 29 x 13”
Cloak & Daggers, bronze, 14 x 15 x 10”
Pole Dancer, bronze, 22 x 15 x 12”
Richard Loffler next to one of the unfinished works from his monument Buffalo Trail. The finished work now sits in front of the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Golden Shadows, bronze,22 x 18 x 10”