Water Castings: Fourteen Pieces

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Artist: Matthew Barney, 2014

Material: Bronze

Process: Clay silt casting?

Barney created these sculptures using a process he developed in which molten bronze is poured into a pit of bentonite clay silt. When the bronze comes into contact with the moisture in the clay silt, the metal evaporates the water and finds its way into the spaces between the pieces of clay, hardening and resulting in abstract forms. The pieces apparently relate to a six hour film the artist created, but I can’t confirm that fact because there was no way I was going to spend six hours watching a silent art film.

I stumbled across this installation as I was looking into water casting and found it interesting even though the name ended up being misleading. The final products reminded me of the pieces that have been created by pouring metal into ant hills and hornets nests.

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Water Casting

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Typically used for jewelry making, water casting is a process where molten metal (mostly silver, bronze, or pewter ) is dropped into water. The metal then takes form as it sinks to the bottom and cools into a organic shape. Different temperatures of water, depths, and additives will affect the form the metal takes, as will the temperature of the metal itself and the height from which it is dropped. I found this to be a really interesting casting process because it takes the form away from the process and allows the metal to shape itself naturally. The concept of somehow doing this with a more fluid material – like concrete – that takes more time to set is intriguing.