Copper in the Arts

March 2010

Herb Alpert Bronze Exhibit at Ace Gallery

totems Herb Alpert, Black Totems, 2005-2009, bronze

Photograph courtesy of Ace Gallery, Beverly Hills

Famous Trumpeter Herb Alpert is exhibiting his bronze totem series at the Ace Gallery in Beverly Hills through May 25, 2010.

Totems have pan-cultural associations throughout diverse cultures around the world, used throughout history to document genealogies, ancestors and societies. Herb Alpert, in his Black Totem series, has focused on this language of sculpture for the past 20 years and addresses this geneaology in his Black Totem sculptures.

Alpert's process for creating these sculptures is manually intensive. He works with wet clay first, molding it into vertical forms ranging from 8 to 36 inches tall. From these, he selects the ones he will make into larger sculptures that will range from 12 to 20 feet in height. These larger works are also hand formed with the wet clay. When completed, molds are made and then the sculptures are cast in bronze and patinated black.

Alpert's inspiration stems from the unique totems of the Pacific Northwest's Haida, Tlingit, and Kwakiutl tribes whose totem poles were made of single pieces of cedar, some up to forty feet in height. For the Haida tribe, these ancestral totems are, and have been for hundreds of years, the essence of family and tribal identity and sometimes were used to mark entranceways to their lodgings.

Alpert's attraction to this sculptural form is understandable as it contains an enormous history. The black patina of his totems is evocative of ancient primal forms and the contemporary material belies an ancient prehistory. The pan-cultural consciousness invested into these dark sculptural forms also relate back in time to Egyptian obelisks as much as they evoke the Modernist sculpture of Constantin Brancusi - specifically Brancusi's Endless Column (1937), Alberto Giacometti's extended figures and early Louise Bourgeois sculpture.

In conjunction with the exhibition a new photographically illustrated book Herb Alpert: Black Totems, with an essay by Hunter Drohojowska, will be published by Curatorial Assistance, Pasadena, to be distributed by D.A.P.


Ace Gallery Beverly Hills, 9430 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA, 90212, (310) 858-9090

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