Heroic Vehicles
1997 Kohler Emerging Artist Exhibition

I'm interested in telling the kind of stories I never hear but for which I am always looking.
These are stories of exploration and survival.
-B. Sunnarborg

"Heroic Vehicles"
Article from Sculpture Magazine, December 1998

With cast iron as the main ingredient, Bradley Sunnarborg's refined yet unabashedly industrial sculptures sit rather pretty (and firmly) and beg a closer look. These bathospheres and vertical submersion tanks could be used in the inevitable remake of Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, their construction and simplicity implying both the antique and the modern. The recurring element in the work is a trusty nautical motif---the porthole. While suggesting the need to peer out, nothing and no one lies within the dark interior of these vessels. They stoically stand alone and, as the titles suggest, seem to have a tale to tell.

The bathospheres provide the more captivating component of this exhibition. Dipped in liquid copper, Sometimes I Cant Catch My Breath, Sometimes I Hold lt (all works 1998) glistens and reigns as the exhibition's dazzling centerpiece. The glearning, worked surface of this pink-gold ball has been burnished so that in roughing it up, the artist adds even more dimension and sparkle to its already blinding shine. In all its glory, the sphere sports multiple portholes---one large and three small ones wrap around its mighty 176-inch girth---while an air hose and pressure gauge spout from the top of the sphere. The hose leads to a long metal contraption, perhaps the device by which the "breath" is released or refilled. By comparison, Like the Widow is remarkably somber. With a smooth gray shell, it adheres to the same dimensions as its showier sister yet yields a solitary porthole. The dark, stone like exterior takes on an elegant feel, its sleekness only momentarily suspended by the heavy duty chain that links it to its simple, sturdy support.

Since Sunnarborg cannot survive on spheres alone, he crafts a variant vessel that conveys a very human feel. Lacking the limbs of the conventional diving suit, these vessels are nearly columnar though slightly wider and rounded at the top and softly finished from head to toe. Resembling vertical submersion tanks, each comes equipped with the familiar porthole on the "face" of the object. In My Refusal To Look Will Not Protect Me Sunnarborg positions the vessel so that it commands a frontal view. This sculpture is firmly positioned in a yoke-like support with chains and a winch to keep it "afloat". We Have Always Been Together features the same vessels but this time in tandem as the two containers face one another porthole porthole. As the title implies, they are permanently joined, firmly connected by an armature and anchoring device. Though the work might be able to rock like a see-saw, the vessels are frozen in a state of imbalance given their incredible mass.

Sunnarborg designs these spectacular spheres and objects that, based on their weight and dimensions, require serious supports. He successfully softens and blends the industrial, structural elements in ways that do not detract from the object. They do their job as structural supports while allowing the art to remain the focus. Given all the iron, I-beams, and riggings, the work is not cold and imposing but surprisingly and refreshingly inviting. Sunnarborg's sculpture spark the viewer's imagination to consider what fantastical journey these vehicles might be headed on and who might dare crawl inside. Though the look says seaworthy, these heroic "vehicles" are far from buoyant.

Tracey Hummer
Sculpture Magazine
Vol 17, No 10
December 1998
pp. 64-65
Quoted by permission

Sometimes I Can't Catch My Breath,
Sometimes I Hold It.

Copper coated cast iron bathosphere, 56" diameter. Steel, PVC, rubber hose, air pump 120" length steel gantry and hoist.
May 1998

 

 

   
  My Refusal To Look
Will Not Protect Me.
Steel gantry, cast iron diving vehicle, 96" x 66" x 27".
May 1998
 
Like the Widow Cast iron diving vehicle, 56" in diameter.
May 1998
  We Have Always Been Together.
Cast iron diving vehicles and steel teeter totter armature,
108" x 48" x 120".  May 1998