Artist Eric Powell’s sculpture work is driven by a visceral urgency to build. Compelled more by intuition than dialectic thinking, Powell’s sculpture is driven forward by a moment-to-moment exploration of his materials. By understanding site and context, following his intuition and allowing himself to explore areas that may not follow a logical or systematic pattern, he inevitably finds himself at a place where certain magical juxtapositions occur. “It is a vulnerable and highly charged experience,” notes Powell.
He works primarily with steel, one of the most common and ubiquitous building materials in the modern world. Powell values the material for its versatility, malleability, and its decidedly alchemical properties. Steel transforms into a material as pliable as clay, which can be formed, pounded, molded, and bent into virtually any shape with the right amount of heat and force. An avid collector, he integrates elements of his large cache of historical steel and iron objects, which he often integrates into pieces. These are reminders of the country’s rich industrial past. Powell also incorporates other metals, including bronze, into his work, as well as wood and glass depending on the project.
Powell is most well known for his large works of art that relate strongly to site and architecture. Working both on commissioned private works and public art projects, he relishes translating an idea into a large, freeform structure that can withstand strong wind loads and harsh environments. Working out the physical requirements of large scale work presents a fascinating challenge. Powell also appreciates public art commissions for their collaborative aspect, as well as for the opportunity to design and create works of art that are lasting, permanent, accessible and compelling for all viewers.
Powell studied sculpture and sculpture and painting at California College of Arts and University of Southern California. In 1982 he co-founded Spirit Arts Gallery in Santa Fe, NM, where he created an extensive body of steel art and furniture. In 1989 he founded Eric Powell Studio in Berkeley, CA, where he produces works in public art, private commissions and for gallery and museum exhibitions. Recent works include Mirassou, two panels depicting wine-making in San Jose, Flotilla, a sculptural openwork railing at San Francisco’s Hunter’s Point Shipyard, Cayuga Portal, two entry gates for San Francisco’s recently renovated Cayuga Park and Wellspring, a freestanding sculpture depicting an ascending flock of birds for the City of Dublin, CA.