RT’s Primal Screens

by Chris Barncard

Artists share the ability to eye up a wad of clay or blank canvas and envision a masterwork without so much as picking up a brush. At 2609 N. Bremen St. just such a vision is taking shape. An artist who prefers to go by RT — as in “arty” — is settling into a home that he also hopes to use as studio space and gallery, but first he needs to unpack. “This will all be for showing my stuff,” RT said, waving his arms around a large white-walled, hardwood-floored room that is cluttered with packing cases full of his wire-frame sculptures. He is fresh from an art show in Chicago, but he moved into his Riverwest gallery a couple months ago. “All I need to do is figure out where to put it all.” RT would like to fill the room with about 150 of his wire-frame body forms, which range in scale from 8 inches tall (about $40) to life-sized (about $5,000.) Well-placed lights shining through the already three-dimensional pieces cast shadows on the white walls that look everything like charcoal sketches of the folks who may have posed for the sculptures. One wire piece, a flat representation of an at-first unidentifiable posing bodybuilder, takes on new life in its shadow, a familiar portrait of Arnold Schwarzenegger flexing monstrous arms. Mr. Universe is not a surprising subject for RT, though most of his work captures more ordinary bodies because of the possibilities they present. “The human form has more variety in it, an infinite supply of poses and emotions,” RT said. “I can convey dynamic energy, static poses, sadness, happiness, pain, struggle, intensity, strength, weakness. “Everything really can be expressed in the wire.” RT began sculpting 25 years ago at age 15, but it took quite some time to come around to the medium on which he focuses. Though born in Dubuque, Iowa, RT made wire harnesses for the U.S. Department of Energy for three years after graduating from a technical college. It was while living in the southwest that he first saw wire-frame artwork by Eric Boyer on display in Scottsdale, AR. That experience sparked RT’s entry into a medium unencumbered by crowds of artists. “There are only four other artists I know that do this kind of work,” RT said. That means his materials come from unconventional sources. RT’s sculptures are crafted from wire mesh — aluminum, brass, or galvanized steel — in three different gauges typically used in mining or milling applications to separate material. The materials lose all of their industrial characteristics as RT works them by hand into smooth, lifelike pieces of art. He credits his feel for the human form to years of studying Tai Chi, yoga, and martial arts, a program he said he began to rehabilitate an injured back. “You understand more about how the body moves,” RT said. “It’s helped my sculpting so much.” His ability sounds hard-won. “All the time I’ve spent, all the money I’ve spent, all the dumpsters I’ve filled, it’s been seven years of just study and investment,” said RT, who hopes to be able to abandon his home-remodeling day job for full-time sculpting. “Now I know exactly what I can do, exactly what I can accomplish.” For now that means hitting the art show circuit — which he calls “brutal” — and opening his Riverwest workspace to interested buyers. RT’s gallery is open by appointment, which can be arranged by calling (414) 807-3441. Soon the Bremen Cafe, 901 E. Clarke St., will play host to 8 to 10 of his sculptures, RT said, but for now photos of his work are available on his growing website, Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 1 – January 2003