Steely Discipline: The Work of Hernan Gomez Chavez
Upon studying the sculpture of Hernan Gomez Chavez, one might easily wonder how such inherently physical work—geometric, meticulous configurations of welded steel—can simultaneously feel so effortless and ephemeral. For Gomez Chavez, it comes naturally: art-making involves both studious technique and intense, sometimes politically charged inspiration.
Gomez Chavez was born in Santa Fe, where his predilection for sculpture manifested early on in a number of creative practices; the most resonant for him was steel welding, which he was drawn to in adolescence. Following formal study at home and abroad (the artist received some of his formal training at the Academy of Art, Architecture and Design in Prague, for instance) Gomez Chavez was driven to explore themes of identity and place related to his intimate understanding of life in New Mexico. Acknowledging that he’s most often described as a ‘sculptor,’ Gomez Chavez is nonetheless hesitant to wear just one hat. Large-scale installation work, including site-specific pieces with performative aspects, insert him firmly within an interdisciplinary genre.
Gomez Chavez’s current body of work belies the mind of an artist who is fascinated with the aesthetic possibilities of steel. Though it’s a material most often associated with industrial, large-scale architecture, Gomez Chavez imbues it with unexpectedly organic properties, while still respecting steel’s reputation for durability and strength. This dualistic understanding results in works which resemble oil wells, radio towers, and other man-made contraptions, realized in streamlined symmetry and stark beauty.