Unidentified wood and iron sculpture
January 10, 2012 2:04 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine was given an unidentified sculpture and he has tasked me with finding the name of the original artist. The sculpture itself is large and extremely intricate which leads us to believe that it was made by a well-known artist. The only problem is that there are no markings anywhere. Here is a pulled-back view of the whole piece. Can you please help us identify it?

A few detail shots: one, two, three, four, five.

It is composed of layers and layers of wood with a few rusted iron circles. It seems to resemble a train or a bull, which makes sense because it used to hang above the reception desk at the CSX headquarters in Richmond, VA. That address is 2134 W. Laburnum Ave, Richmond, VA 23227. When the company changed offices last year, it was given to my friend. CSX is known for commissioning original art but we can't find any record of this particular piece, and Google didn't turn anything up, either.

There is another shot of the piece in this magazine article about their home.

If anyone has an ideas about resources where we could inquire further, that would also be a huge help.

Thank you!
posted by infinitefloatingbrains to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
A little more info on how the sculpture is mounted: it consists of 3 units that slide together to become one. Each piece sits on a steel bracket. All brackets are mounted at the same height, making the installation very easy and neat. The brackets also match up to the studs in the wall.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 2:06 PM on January 10, 2012


Does your friend know anyone who works/worked for CSX at the time that this piece would have been acquired? Or any clue along those lines, like the year they moved into that space/renovated the office, who the architect was, etc? Is CSX known for commissioning local artists or buying contemporary pieces in larger art markets like New York? How did your friend come to be given the piece?

It doesn't look like "high art" to me, but it could easily be by someone locally known.
posted by Sara C. at 3:51 PM on January 10, 2012


It must be by someone well known because it's big? Looks like regular corporate art to me.
posted by cmoj at 3:55 PM on January 10, 2012


How old is it? CSX came into being in 1986. CSX merged with the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad (headquartered in Richmond, VA) in 1991. Is it possible that the sculpture was commissioned/bought by the RF&P and "inherited" by CSX?

In any case, CSX must have a corporate archivist or a person that operates in this capacity. I'd try to identify an archivist or librarian within the corporation that would be able to help answer this sort of thing. If you can't crack the corporate phone tree, try asking various railroad historical societies for the railroads that merged to form the CSX - usually full of former employees and full of unpublished information that could lead you to the right person (like, perhaps, the office manager of the Richmond office of the RF&P in the late 70s. Or whenever this might be from.)
posted by gyusan at 4:11 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does your friend know anyone who works/worked for CSX at the time that this piece would have been acquired?

He doesn't know anyone who was there - he worked in a different office in the building. We're asking around Richmond to see if we can locate anyone who worked there. So far, no good leads. When they were cleaning out the office to move, no one wanted the sculpture, so they gave it to my friend.

It must be by someone well known because it's big? Looks like regular corporate art to me.

It is certainly possible that the work is just some plain old corporate art, but there a couple of details that make me think it is more special than that. First of all, the woodwork is extremely intricate and very, very precise. It was definitely planned out very well, with the way the different layers matched up. Also - the pieces appear to have been cut individually. It would be one thing to saw through several all at once, but instead it looks like every single board was measured and cut on its own. That would require a high level of precision that points to a dedicated and talented craftsman.

Second of all, the fact that the piece resembles a train with the circular iron pieces makes it seem like this piece was specially commissioned. In general, this points to a more established artist, someone who would not simply make a reproduction. It could be a local Richmond or Virginia artist, which definitely makes sense, but the train resemblance and the beautiful woodwork point to someone who would be known at least at the regional level.

How old is it? CSX came into being in 1986. CSX merged with the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad (headquartered in Richmond, VA) in 1991. Is it possible that the sculpture was commissioned/bought by the RF&P and "inherited" by CSX?

We can't find a date anywhere at all. The RF&P is a great lead though, it could be the case that the piece passed down, which could explain why no one at the office knew where it came from originally when my friend took it home. The idea of the archivist at CSX is a great one - while looking for that and the historical society I came across the 'RF+P Historical Society.' Seems perfect, thanks for the idea. And I'll also try the general CSX contact info as well.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 4:39 PM on January 10, 2012


It might be an idea to reach out to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. They're pretty knowledgeable about local artists. Contact page VMFA website.
posted by likeso at 5:16 PM on January 10, 2012


Someone would not necessarily have to be an established artist to have done this piece. Dedicated and talented, yes, but there are many people in those categories who are not "established", or who don't even consider themselves to be artists. A skilled carpenter would have no problem with measuring and cutting each board, and many people who are not known as artists create original work.

It sounds like it is unusual for records about artwork to be missing at this company. It might have come to hang behind that desk outside of the usual art purchasing procedures. It's possible that it could have been made by people working for CSX, or a company that merged with them. Guessing there must be a few people employed at a railroad who know how to work with iron.

What areas are the woods from? That might give you some clues.
posted by yohko at 6:28 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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