Copper in the Arts

July 2012

Gary Magakis: The Warm Comfort of Furniture in Bronze

By Jennifer Hetrick

Copper cabinet Bronze cabinet.

Photograph courtesy of Gary Magakis

After a brief stint in steel, it's now been about two decades since bronze began to take hold as the primary metal in Gary Magakis' life, and he's never looked back.

The Philadelphia-based artist first began working with bronze in the 1970s when he worked at a local foundry and metal fabrication. Today, he hand forges and welds furniture of all kinds, from tables, desks, and floor lamps, to cabinets, benches, and sculptural accent pieces.

"I like furniture because people interact with it, and it's useful," Magakis says. "There's a functionality to it that I like, yet it also has sculptural quality."

With a degree in sculpture from Pennsylvania State University, Magakis draws inspiration from Asian art, the arts and crafts movement and mid-century design, using bronze as his medium of choice.

"It's a classic material," Magakis admits. "When you think of bronze, you think of the classics, like Greek and Roman sculptures. I like the way it works. It's a clean welding material, it's pliable, and you can do a lot more with it."

Magakis sources his bronze from Atlas Metal Sales in Denver, Colo. He enjoys experimenting with patinas to help color his work, and put a unique spin on his vision.

bronze wall piece Bronze wall piece.

Photograph courtesy of Gary Magakis

"I don't like symmetry-I like variety," Magakis admits in explaining how a small table of his might have four entirely different feet with thicknesses, styles, and designs that do anything but match and yet still sit perfectly even on the ground, appearing as if nature fully intended this unfamiliar and hardly common look.

"I like the challenge of making four different legs that relate to each other and work together, and that comes from my sculptures which I usually do in series, using variations on a theme," he says.

His cabinetry, including storage units, dressers, and credenzas, are beginning to take on more sculpted doors, drawers, and sides, with inspiration beckoning, billowing effects into them from his time driving through the Endless Mountains Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania while en route to his country home in Susquehanna County.

And narrow skyward paths of his floor lamps often carry a sense of curious minimalism, which for Magakis is very intentional.

"What I'm looking for is a balance of the shapes I use and the spaces between them, creating a visual flow of elements," he says.

Coming up this fall, Magakis will have a selection of his furniture and sculptures featured at the Snyderman-Works Galleries on Cherry Street in Philadelphia from October 5 to November 30.

Resources:

Gary Magakis, 1129 North Third Street, Philadelphia, PA (215) 421-2674

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