New exhibition visits WTAMU gallery

Tova Kibal, Features Editor

The newest exhibition in the WTAMU gallery is a collaboration between two men who, at first sight, appears to be making very different art. But the two heavy-looking shapes in iron placed in the middle of the gallery and the sparkling pieces hanging on the wall have a unique connection.

Students and faculty gathered at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 25, to see the opening reception of ‘‘IRON CLAD: Cast and Painted works’’ by Jack Craft and Ted Laredo in the Dord Fitz Formal Art Gallery in the Mary Moody Northen Hall.

Craft, who described himself and Laredo as ‘‘post-minimalists,’’ works with iron casting and started his’ process with a basic pyramid. After combining the shape in different scales and sizes, the end result was the sphere and the cube showcased in the gallery: ‘‘Being’’ and ‘‘Circumstance.’’

The two pieces, each one cubic foot of iron and covered in pyramid-shaped nail heads, are connected to Laredo’s contribution to the exhibition. Some of Laredo’s six pieces are re-interpretations of a cube or a sphere, for instance, the ‘‘Flat Cube,’’ and five out of the six include the material, micaceous iron oxide.

Micaceous iron oxide is often used in non-corrosive coating and decorative coating, and it was the shiny finish it leaves that attracted Laredo to the material.

‘‘Ever since I was a kid, traveling in Texas to my grandparents who lived in Holliday, Texas. I would always notice galvanized steel buildings and to me, how beautiful they were,’’ Laredo said. ‘‘The reflectivity and the quality of it, that’s what I liked about it.’’  

One of Laredo’s pieces is an 18-inch diameter circle, covered in micaceous iron oxide that leaves a ‘‘cosmic’’ surface. In the dark, the piece resembles an eclipse which is where it got its name.

‘‘It kind of represents our awaken state and our sleeping state and the in-between dreams,’’ Laredo explained.

Craft’s passion for working with iron started when he was a child. Today, he lives with his family on a cattle ranch in the Texas Panhandle. He describes his artistic process as ‘‘hard, heavy, and sometimes uncomfortably honest’’ on his website. The two pieces in the exhibition weigh about 450 pounds each.

‘‘If it looks heavy, I want it to be heavy,’’ Craft said.

The artists met years ago through a mutual friend but decided to work together when Craft visited Laredo in his studio in Albuquerque, N.M.

‘‘When I saw Ted working with this iron material, I immediately had the idea that we should try and do something together,’’he said.

Laredo has previously experimented with phosphorus paint and reflective glass microbeads, as well as various materials found in your regular hardware store. He has created a painting with the juices of prickly pear cactuses and lemons.

He came over the micaceous iron oxide through a chemist friend who was familiar with Laredo’s appreciation of shiny materials and didn’t want it. His wife, Angela Berkson, described Laredo as having been this way since the day she met him.

‘‘He’s not thinking about it in the terms that its supposed to be used, he sees it as ‘that’s shiny and I like it, I’m going to see if it will do what I want it to do’ and so, he used it the way he was using the other glass beads and reflective stuff,’’ she said.

The exhibition will be on display until March 10. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and by appointment on the weekend. Read more about the artists and see their work on Ted Laredo and Jack Craft’s respective website.