I first met Pard Morrison a decade ago. I asked him what he did for a living and his reply was simple: “I’m a sculptor.” A kind of local secret, the Springs native has shown his work in galleries around the U.S. and the world. Last year he completed two massive public installations, one at the U.S. Embassy in the Hague, Netherlands, and the other at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. Locally, you can spot one on the corner of S. Tejon and W. Cimarron streets. I sat down with the sculptor in his studio to talk about his work and its inspiration.
Springs: Do sculptors have elevator pitches? What do say when someone asks about your work?
Pard Morrison: I was just reading an article about Jasper Johns where this came up. Johns is so well-known in American art history that when people ask him, he sums it up with a one-liner: “I’m an abstract artist.”
My elevator pitch would be that I’m a geometric abstractionist working in aluminum. With an emphasis on color.
Let’s pretend I find the term geometric abstraction confusing.
I use very simple shapes like squares and rectangles and the grid format. It’s a layout that suggests mechanization, but also how the human hand reaches out from them.
Were you always into this sort of thing?
Actually not—my early work was full of images. But after 9/11 I felt I had to reduce everything to its most fundamental element-to convey the strongest experience possible with the least amount of visual vocabulary.
So are these towers?
In a way—though I don’t know. But I don’t do only towers. There are wall pieces as well. My towers came along years after 9/11, but I guess there is something to it. Generally, it’s just one tower. I rarely place stuff in multiples.
Are the towers all one size?
The towers are usually between 7 and 9 feet [tall]. It’s important they’re approachable and not a monumental obelisk. My work takes place on a human scale. People should be able to relate.
What’s your relationship to color?
My work is consumed in the round, visually and experientially. I plan the color segmentation accordingly. If there’s a weak section, then maybe there’s a stronger color that will pull you around the back.
What inspires you?
I’m not exactly sure of the terminology, but I was watching this movie on Buddhists, and there’s a term for a feeling of everything at once, a realization of how miraculous and wonderful it is to be consumed by all the feelings at once. When the work is really in tune, I feel like I get to that place, where you can see the human hand juxtaposed with mechanical form, and maybe that’s how we fit into this whole equation.
When you get up close, you can actually see the brushstrokes.
That’s important. When people approach the work, it looks at first artificial, but then there’s a moment when you see how handmade it really is.
Absolutely. It’s particularly wonderful when a bit of time has gone by since it has been created and installed. Then I can reapproach it with semi-fresh eyes. It’s like seeing one of your children that you just dropped off in the middle of nowhere. You come back to check up on it.