Nimbus | Fabrication Update, May 2017
Nimbus | Ring of light enveloping a figure within a work of art
Tristan Al-Haddad is an architect and visual artist from Atlanta, GA whose interactive works, often presented in galleries and museums as well as public spaces, blur the boundaries between disciplines.
During his design presentation in November 2016, Tristan remarked that Nimbus is both derived from extrinsic site forces and projects its own intrinsic desires.
The sculpture’s form is derived from its site at the intersection of the primary axis of Nicollet Mall that aligns with the atrium of Minneapolis Central Library. Nimbus transforms the elliptical base-geometry of James Corner’s Theater in the Round into a levitating figure which frames both sky and the library through its oculus. Constructed like an airplane wing, the sculpture dramatically cantilevers 45-feet over the sidewalk and the theater. This 360-degree rendering shows the sculpture in context.
In terms of intrinsic desires, the work aspires to create a visceral experience of light, form, and phenomena. It simultaneously provides a frame or threshold for pedestrians passing through it while also creating a gathering space that embraces those who pause and inhabit the theater. At night, the piece will flood the site with a halo of light, creating a glow and an uncanny ambiance.
Tristan chose to construct the piece from weathering steel (cor-ten steel) for three reasons, “First, to set up a material dialog with Ptolemy’s Wedge, a sculpture by Beverly Pepper on the library plaza which is also made of weathering steel. Secondly, to speak to the post-industrial condition of the contemporary American city. Lastly, for practical reasons, because the material is self-healing which is critical in this highly trafficked and high-impact zone in front of the library.”
Spatially and Socially Activated Past Work
Movement, change, transformation, flux, cognition, illusion – Tristan employs these words when speaking about the work of formations studio, his collaborative workshop in Atlanta, Georgia, where he explores new electronic technologies for conceiving and depicting spatial ideas and invents materials technologies for fabricating his work.
From his earliest pieces, Tristan responded to architectural spaces and invited viewer interaction. Space Index, a pulsing, gyrating chartreuse-colored hourglass-shaped form, installed at the High Museum in Atlanta in 2006 explored cause/effect and user agency. With this dynamic and reactive work, Tristan aimed to, “challenge notions of art as static, art as exclusive, while simultaneously molding the spatial cognition of the users/players in the space.” The work also has a humorous aspect; to see a video of its dynamic behavior, visit Vimeo: Space Index.
Another witty piece is Pucker Up shown at the Atlanta Museum of Design in 2012. A wall relief in Corian®, a flexible industrial material commonly used in baths and kitchens, it explored slight variations in form perceivable from different angles by viewers.
Tristan’s current work is ambitious and expansive; engaging architecture and the dynamics of the city, itself.
The 2015 work entitled Stealth at 15th and Peachtree Street in Atlanta first appears to be a large-scale Minimalist sculpture in a plaza, albeit with figurative allusions – but as the city dweller navigates the space – it becomes animated. Describing the intentions of this work, he says, “the sculpture acts as an urban instrument binding neighboring spaces through visual corridors.” The folded form of pure geometric figures in dark concrete creates an urban portal that visually connects locations in the surrounding environment. The double cube and the elongated hexagon figures are fully perceptible from several blocks away. But as viewers move toward, around and through the work, the sculpture subtly transforms, expanding and collapsing in between two-dimensional figure, and three-dimensional form.
Allotrope Exi, an unbuilt work proposed for Dallas, Texas, was a grand gesture weaving together spaces and architecture in the downtown arts district. Composed of sculptural steel and magenta-hued polycarbonate bands that split and conjoin, fold and twist as they wind through the building lobbies and exterior plazas in a one-block-square area, Tristan remarks that the work, “sets up a series of spaces and carefully frames perspectival views that weave the public space of the city into the public space of the building – almost as if it were a cinematic construct. The piece is about creating a sculpture that engages both the Dallas arts district and the building and creates a bond and interplay between the two.”
Grotto, currently in design development, also conducts a conversation with architecture. The work is a highly-integrated architectural sculpture that animates the underside of a building’s 55-foot-tall portico where it creates a dynamic and luminous inverted landscape of light and color.
All photos courtesy of the artist.