In his first solo Sarasota exhibit, international sculptor Hans Van de Bovenkamp displays smaller works.
For Dutch-born American sculptor Hans Van de Bovenkamp, gates are more than just a tool to mark an entryway. He sees beauty, both in what they represent and what they can be as a work of art.
The sculptor, who typically works in large-scale installations, fountains and custom hydraulic gates, will open his first solo show in Sarasota this Friday at Alfstad& Contemporary. The exhibit features sketches, paintings and small-scale bronze sculptures of his gates.
Van de Bovenkamp says “Gateways” will help viewers follow his process from conception to reality. We spoke with him about scale, permanence and the beauty of gateways.
"IN COLLEGE, I had saved enough money to start my own studio in the basement of a house I was renting. I began making little sculptures from coathangers. I was asked to do a fountain for the windows at Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue. They were selling permanence, so I thought I should make something that would destroy itself in three weeks. I made fountains of pieces of metal shelving I found on street, and I put the beautiful diamond jewelry in it. The fountain began to rust, and the water became like a brown soup. The more the fountain deteriorated, the more beautiful and permanent the jewelry became by comparison.
"PEOPLE ASKED if I could make a fountain that would last, so I made a series of fountains in copper and brass. Eventually I had 20 assistants and was selling fountains around world. I did very well with those.
"I LIKE TO REINVENT MY WORK, so I rented another studio and began to make sculptures. It was a slow road to success. I would load my works onto a trailer, drive all night to install them in a show, and in three weeks, I’d go pick them up. I would sell a little here there. Lo and behold, I’m 78, and my career is still expanding.
"IN THE NETHERLANDS, it’s very flat, and when you drive on the highway, you can see these huge flat areas, and instead of fences, the cows are separated by little ditches. There are gates at the walkway where the cows can cross, and I was fascinated by the idea of having a gate but no fence.
"A GATE CAN BE more than utilitarian. It’s a symbol for leaving a public space and entering a nonpublic one. It can also tell a little bit about the person who lives beyond the gate. It doesn’t have to be just a generic, impersonal thing. I use gates to create unique works of art.
"LARGE SCULTPURES can serve a few purposes. First, they’re a visual landmark for a building. They also help humanize the scale. When you walk up to a building that’s 60 stories high, you feel 3 feet tall. But a 20-foot sculpture helps you relate to the building’s scale. It interrupts you for a moment and makes you stop and think.
"THIS SHOW FEATURES my small works. Most of them are done in bronze. Stainless steel is good for outdoor sculptures, because it’s basically indestructible. But when it’s on a small scale, it’s very hard to bend. Bronze is soft enough to bend easily. All my work is curved to reflect the condition of nature. People have seen my large sculptures — ones I have to transport on a flatbed truck. Now they can see the smaller side of my work.”