The 16,800 pound forged high carbon steel sculpture by Tom Joyce titled Berg XV has been installed in front of the New Mexico Museum of Art on the corner of Palace and Lincoln Avenues, across from the plaza in downtown Santa Fe.
Trained during his early teens as an apprentice blacksmith in El Rito, New Mexico, artist Tom Joyce is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost practitioners in the field for his contributions to the art and science of forging iron. Joyce’s youth spent observing historic artifacts in Santa Fe’s museums and learning about iron’s innate qualities refined his skills, but more importantly, it cemented his reverence for iron and its storied past. Today, Joyce creates much of his work and sources his raw material from a factory near Chicago, incorporating industrially forged remnants and byproducts of large scale manufacturing.
Joyce’s work can be found in many permanent public collections, including the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Detroit Institute of Art; New Mexico Museum of Art; Luce Foundation Center for American Art; Mint Museum of Art; National September 11 Memorial Museum; Boston Museum of Fine Art; Tucson Museum of Art; and Yale University Art Gallery.
Berg is essentially “offspring” from a massive forged component that in my mind is still connected to its “parent” now churning away somewhere in the world -- extracting natural resources, producing energy, staving off or inciting war, manufacturing vehicles for transportation, taking us into space, weaving our clothes, or processing our food. This work was initiated to reference the material’s inextricable link to our lives facilitated by the many uses for which humans have employed iron.
Berg on the Plaza
-Merry Scully, Head of Curatorial Affairs, Curator of Contemporary Art
The Santa Fe based TIA Collection recently loaned to the Museum of Art, a 16,800 pound forged iron sculpture created by Tom Joyce. Its title, Berg XV, refers not only to the hefty material from which it was made — a remnant Joyce retrieved from a much larger industrial component — but also to the substantial, yet often hidden roles iron plays in everyday life. Placed on the corner, in front of the New Mexico Museum of Art and adjacent to Santa Fe’s historic plaza, the sculpture appears buoyant, floating above its contact points and belying its considerable mass.
Through folding, twisting, eroding and squeezing iron, Joyce reintroduces evidence of its materiality and probes its expressive traits to produce densely layered works with irregular surfaces, rich textures, and colored by a full spectrum of oxidized hues. An accomplished American sculptor recognized for deploying materials with an inherited history, Tom Joyce (b. 1956) has opened his discipline to a new scale of monumentality and technical innovation. In the nearly two decades since his MacArthur Fellowship, Joyce has created compelling works engaged with process and underpinned by an abiding interest in the physical properties of his chosen medium, iron. Joyce’s work, at once subtle and bold, ancient and modern, pays homage to the rich heritage of blacksmithing while extending that legacy through his art.
The artist’s choreographed placement of the sculpture was facilitated with assistance from many participants — crane operators and heavy hauling truckers; registrars, preparers and curatorial staff; foundation crew and installation team; security personnel and safety inspector; the City of Santa Fe and the Department of Transportation — this orchestration is not dissimilar in complexity, to the industrial performance Joyce initiates every time his large-scale works are produced. To be able to share works of aesthetic beauty and cultural relevance are among the highest goals of the New Mexico Museum of Art. It is particularly rewarding when the artist is a member of our community. Berg XV, 2013/14, certainly meets those goals, and we are honored to have Tom Joyce among the pantheon of influential artists that call New Mexico home.
Fascinated by the terrestrial and celestial forces that create violent upheavals, compression and expansion, extreme temperatures and incessant erosion in nature, Joyce forges under similar dramatic conditions to create sculptures like Berg XV, forged high carbon steel. To create the distorted cube sculptures that appear to be in motion, folded inward, he directed the press operator to make four angled cuts in the cardinal directions based on a clay model he'd executed previously in his studio on a small scale. "I breach the grain" Joyce explains, "and that breached the structural integrity of the material. It was made to be the strongest material in the world, and with one cut, I've rendered it useless for the purpose for which it was intended."