Before We Say Goodbye to Bala

A. Balasubramaniam, Sk(in), 2011. Photo: Brooke Rosenblatt

UPDATE: Great news! Just as we posted this, we learned that Bala’s sculpture will remain in the courtyard for an extended stay until April 2012. The inside portion of his installation will still come down this weekend.

Before Bala’s sculpture bids us farewell this weekend, come and see it on a sunny day. If you stand in the stairwell between the second and third floor of the museum, you’ll be able to see the amazing shadows the bicycle spokes cast on the slate pavers of the courtyard. I think they look like a line drawing!

Spoke Rehab

Up-Cycled Art        As usual, Conservation was on hand to document the condition of the newest addition to the courtyard. As an added bonus, we got to chat with the artist, A. Balasubramaniam, a.k.a. Bala. While taking photos, I saw that the sculpture is made up of small rods of metal welded together. I noticed shallow threads on a few of the pieces of metal and asked Bala if he had welded nails together.

In fact, he told me, the sculpture is made of bicycle spokes. Nice! The spokes are cut up and welded together into the repeating triangle pattern that makes up the structure of the artwork. Bala said he chose bicycle spokes because they are light-weight and have some flexibility. It’s true; if you look at the base of the sculpture, you can see that the convex shape inverts and pushes inward where it rests on the flat slate pavers of the courtyard.

A detail of the cut and welded spokes. Photos: Patti Favero

Minor Repairs        The sculpture came to the Phillips from India after a long journey by truck and by sea. As we noted its condition, we found that one branch on the inside of the sculpture had snapped almost in two. A few weak spots at the base of the branch had given into metal fatigue somewhere along the way and did not survive the trip. Bala took it all in stride, and he and the Phillips’s Installations Manager, Bill Koburg, went on a fishing expedition with some copper wire and a picture hook. They snagged the branch with the picture hook and carefully pulled it up, aligning the break as well as possible. Bala and Bill then secured the broken branch in its proper position using monofilament, or fishing line (rated for 15 lbs).  I fetched some acrylic paint from the studio, which Bala used to tone the fishing line so it would be less noticeable.

Left: The break at the base Center: Bala's hand, carefully lowering the hook Right: Bala and Bill making the repair