How One Sculptor Optimizes the ‘Constructive Potential’ of a Steel-Industry Byproduct
Art Business

How One Sculptor Optimizes the ‘Constructive Potential’ of a Steel-Industry Byproduct

James Balmforth uses a thermic lance—a torch-like tool that can burn at 7,000 degrees—to create his work. James Balmforth, Surface Response (Stack) (2019) at Celine’s New York flagship location on Madison Avenue. Visitors to Celine’s Madison Avenue location this spring will find among the luxurious materials built into the design of the flagship—volcanic rock in the floors, imported marble on the walls, and fur and leather on the racks—a seemingly renegade work of art among all the high design. A column of steel cubes, titled Surface Response (Stack) , a 2019 commission from artist James Balmforth, towers over the store’s south side, standing some eight-and-a-half-feet tall. Each cube bears the marks of a torch that, in the artist’s hands, has heated the steel and left one entire face of each block darkened, as if caught in mid-boil. The steel is considered useless in industry, where it is known as slag, but Balmforth aims to exploit it for its expressive power—and in fact, a tense conversation emerges between the still, gray, semi-glossy steel and the blackened matte slag. ‘It certainly looks like a lush environment, lots of highly labored, value-laden surfaces which are hard not to be drawn to,” the […]

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