‘The Conductor: Dick Polich in Art History’ by Daniel Belasco

Since opening his first art foundry in the late 1960s, Polich has worked closely with the most significant artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. His foundries—Tallix (1970–2006), Polich Art Works (1995–2006), and Polich Tallix (2006–present)—have produced renowned artworks like Jeff Koons’ gleaming stainless steel Rabbit (1986) and Louise Bourgeois’ imposing 30-foot tall spider Maman (2003), to name just two. They have also produced major public monuments, like the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC (1995), and the Leonardo da Vinci horse in Milan (1999). His current business, Polich Tallix, is one of the largest and best-regarded art foundries in the world, a leader in the integration of technological and metallurgical know-how with the highest quality craftsmanship. Over the years Polich has cast and fabricated thousands of sculptures for hundreds of artists. He has also employed hundreds of artisans who take great pride in their work, some of whom have been artists in their own right or later established their own foundries in the Hudson Valley and beyond. As one of the principal art fabricators of the past half-century, Polich warrants a substantive history that tells his story from the vantage point of art history.

Dick Polich: Transforming Metal into Art is the first museum exhibition to explore the impact of Polich’s energy and invention, dedication to craft, and entrepreneurial acumen on the work of artists. As an art fabricator, Polich remains behind the scenes, his work subsumed into the careers of the artists. In recent years, however, postmodernist artistic practices have discredited the myth of the artist as solitary creator, and the public is increasingly curiousto know how elaborately crafted works of art are made. The following essay, which corresponds to the exhibition, interweaves a history of Polich’s foundry leadership with analysis of landmark artworks he has made. One of the keys to Polich’s success is his enthusiasm for delving into the ambiguous territory between art and craft while clearly distinguishing the different professional roles of artist and fabricator. “As an engineer working with materials and structures, faced with a problem, I transform it into something I can tackle objectively, using the rules and laws of engineering. Artists, however, work from within themselves; their response to a problem is subjective, based on feelings and personal views, uninhibited by precedent,” Polich wrote. At his very best, Polich will lead an artist to new discoveries and manifest those discoveries in a form that meets or exceeds the artist’s vision. The fertile exchanges between Polich and a diverse group of artists reveal how the development of Polich and his foundries are an inextricable part of the evolution of contemporary art.

Beginnings

Dick Polich is a self-made man. He was born in 1932 to a working class Croatian family that immigrated to the Chicago area two decades earlier. He grew up in a tight-knit community in Lyons, on the West Side, and played football in the rough and tumble Suburban League. Thanks to his athletic prowess and scholastic achievement, Polich received a scholarship to attend Yale University. He first rode a train on his journey from Chicago to New Haven. At Yale, Polich excelled in athletics and academics. His interest in the intersection of art and industry originated during these undergraduate days. Polich studied the history of architecture and modern art with the renowned art historians Vincent Scully and George Hamilton, and in the summers he worked for the American Brake Shoe Company. This industrial foundry awarded him a scholarship for his senior year, which covered tuition and guaranteed him a job after graduation in 1954. With a degree in economics, Polich moved to Rahway, NJ. There he lived in company housing and met Merton Flemings, the mentor who would change his life. A recent Ph.D. in metallurgy with a specialty in advanced foundry technology, Flemings arrived at American Brake Shoe around the same time as Polich. The two became fast friends, dining nearly every night until Flemings joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1956. Polich soon tired of the routine at work, and craved excitement and travel. Influenced by his Yale classmate Russell W. Meyer, Jr., who joined the Marine Corps Reserve, Polich joined the Navy,to fly jets in 1956.

He served for three years, the experience of landing fighters on aircraft carriers having satisfied his thirst for manly adventure. Next, Polich decided to pursue his longtime ambition to be an architect. He reconnected with Scully, who recalled Polich’s term paper on Art Nouveau, an architectural and decorative style that allied craft and industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Scully wrote a strong recommendation letter, and the Harvard Graduate School of Design admitted Polich. He moved to Cambridge with his wife and two sons in 1960, but he did not thrive in the competitive atmosphere of architecture school. Polich describes being unable to defend his work, a skill essential to survive the faculty critiques that were, and remain, a staple of art and design education. Disheartened, Polich left Harvard after a year, and in 1961 went to work for Flemings on the research team in the MIT Foundry. There, Polich felt more comfortable using his skills to manufacture technically and materially advanced objects without having to provide a conceptual framework or aesthetic justification. That, he understood, was the responsibility of the artist.

Like many industries in post-World War Two America, foundries experienced a period of rapid growth and technological transformation. New materials and techniques that had been developed in the 1930s and 40s gained practical application on a large scale to feed the growing consumer and military markets. The MIT Foundry, a university leader in advanced foundry practices at the time, may have been the only one in America to combine high-end industrial research and serious commitment to artistic experimentation. A unique collaboration between two metallurgy professors, Merton Flemings and Howard F. Taylor, and artist-in-residence Alfred M. Duca, led to new low-cost, artistic applications of industrial practices in American foundries. Most artists cast work in Europe, Taylor said at the time, because the labor-intensive traditional techniques discouraged the opening of new art foundries in America. MIT secured grants from the Rockefeller and Ford foundations to develop new methods of inexpensive, high quality art casting. Updating the ancient lost wax process, Duca invented the “foam vaporization” method. A sculpture carved in polystyrene would be encased in a sand mold. Technicians poured molten metal into the mold, which evaporated the foam and left in its place a unique solid casting. After perfecting this method, which involved testing different types of venting, MIT cast over 30 works, including Duca’s bronze Pegasus in 1959  and ductile iron Crucified Man in 1960. The textured surface of Pegasus reveals its material origin in plastic, not plaster, wax, or clay, demonstrating that the result of its unorthodox production is equivalent to that of traditional techniques.

The MIT Foundry was an ideal setting for Polich, who was spiritually awed by the primitive power of molten metal heated to over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and intellectually stimulated by the technical challenges of casting for art and industry. After working on the foundry staff for a year, Polich began to take graduate courses, researching precision casting of aluminum and magnesium, a problematic metal that easily burns. Though he worked with Duca, Polich focused on aerospace industry, and wrote a thesis on developing high strength ball bearings to withstand continual usage in the navigational gyroscopes of nuclear missiles on 24-hour alert. In 1964, Polich earned a master ’s degree in metallurgy and returned to industry, getting a job at the high-tech Hitchiner Manufacturing Company in Milton, NH. He soon outgrew this position and sought a larger challenge. Polich became a division manager at the aerospace manufacturer Bendix Corporation in New Jersey. Living in Ridgewood, NJ, Polich could have settled into a life of suburban affluence and corporate ladder climbing. However, it was the 1960s, and Polich, like so many others, vibrated to the heady optimism of the day. His consciousness raised, Polich began to consider ways to redirect the power of technology from corporate and military ends to more humanistic goals. He had recently met artist Toni Putnam, and became interested in the creative life as a valuable endeavor. As Polich tells the story, after receiving an order to produce 50,000 parts for gas masks, he realized he was finished with Bendix and ready to leap into the unknown.

Peekskill, The Rock Cut 1970–1976

In the late 1960s Polich left New Jersey and moved with Putnam to New York’s Hudson Valley. There, Polich partnered with Sandy Saunders, a friend and former co-worker at the MIT Foundry, to open an art foundry, called Soltek (short for solidification technology). Located in Nelsonville, a village in Cold Spring, NY, an hour north of New York City, the foundry began in two rooms—one for wax and molds, the other for casting and finishing—located in opposite corners of a large workshop owned by the Saunders family foundry supply company. The year was 1968 or 1969.  One of the first pieces they cast was a small bronze rabbit, an auspicious symbol of productivity. Polich attracted enough business that by 1970, he was ready to grow. Saunders wished to devote himself to the family business, so Polich struck out on his own, with the support of Putnam, renting a new space in Peekskill, NY, closer to the city. In the 3,000 square foot facility on Dogwood Road (then known as the “rock cut”), Polich installed equipment bought from a defunct foundry in Schenectady, NY. Polich called the new firm Tallix, derived from the word “metallics,” coining a name that suggested the creative intersection of art and industry, the final “x” a phonological marker of companies that identify themselves with technology (such as Xerox).

tallix 1970

Polich understood the dynamic convergence of art and technology in the 1960s with the factory the new site of art-making. The tendency emerged early in the decade, when Donald Judd and Alexander Liberman eschewed making art that looked hand-made and found New York City-based custom metal fabricators like Treitel-Gratz and Milgo Industrial to be amenable to sculptural production. Sensing the trend, in 1966 Donald Lippincott and Roxanne Everett opened Lippincott Inc. to fabricate large-scale sculpture, in North Haven, CT, and Sidney Felsen, Stanley Grinstein, and Kenneth Tyler established Gemini G.E.L. to make experimental prints and multiples, in Los Angeles. Galleries and museums mounted numerous exhibitions of contemporary art using plastics, neon, Plexiglas, video, and other industrial or commercial materials. The advent of conceptual art and serial production hastened the divorce of art and craft inaugurated by Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain in 1917. In the post-Duchampian art world, the artist could create art with either a conceptual rationale or a formal structure for materials. Either option may or may not include handicraft by the artist or others working on behalf the artist. The decoupling of art and craft opened up space for the art fabricator to become a major player in contemporary art.

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Experimental artists who wanted to get involved with foundry production to
the same extent as artists who employed custom fabricators had no foundry equivalent to the technology- oriented and artist-centric Lippincott and Gemini G.E.L. Because of the great expense and danger of metal casting, artists investigating molding and casting, like Louise Bourgeois, Bruce Nauman, and Eva Hesse, typically used non-metallic materials like plaster, latex, and fiberglass in their own studios. When artists wanted a work in bronze they went to established bronze foundries in Europe, like those in Pietrasanta, Italy, and in the United States, like the Modern Art Foundry, in Queens, New York, founded by John Spring in 1932. Artists would drop off their models or original sculptures, with some trepidation, and return a few months later to pick up the finished bronzes. A few enterprising artists worked with industrial foundries. Jacques Lipschitz cast some sculptures at Avnet–Shaw, on Long Island, NY, an early adopter of silicone and vinyl molds,11  but the process proved too expensive for the ongoing production of individual works or small editions. Tallix was one of the first new foundries to open in America fully prepared to embrace the demands of the contemporary art world. Polich’s art foundry pioneered the latest technologies and alloys and made them available to artists. “The whole foundry revolves around the idea that artists have a difficult time giving their work to other hands. So we have to make them feel confident that it’s okay. We have places where they can plug in and actually make changes. The first place is where they see the waxes. The last place is where they see the color go down,” Polich says.  Over the years, Polich adapted sand casting, ceramic shells, and new lead-free bronze alloys. Polich modified the “anti-gravity” foundry process used at Hitchiner for art casting, using a vacuum to draw molten metal up into a mold, rather than being poured down, resulting in better castings. He hired the most talented artisans. Tallix quickly built a reputation as a foundry that excelled in both traditional craftsmanship and technical and material innovation.0007

In the freewheeling early days of Tallix improvisation reigned, and Polich worked as well as managed: welding, pouring, and finishing. An early employee, Wendy Gilvey, recalled one task was throwing water on Polich if he caught fire when pulling ceramic shells from the oven. A motorcycle helmet and leather jacket served as safety gear at that time, recalled Thom Joyce, another employee in the 1970s. Polich prioritized problem-solving and mechanical skill. He asked Joyce three questions in his job interview: could he change a clutch, read a blueprint, and build a house? Polich taught employees how to finish and how to file. Putnam, the primary patinist, taught workers how to paint metal like a watercolor, applying layer upon layer of chemical washes while heating with a torch to get the desired color and tone.

Polich’s leadership at Tallix created a cohesive team. He balanced the long hours and dangerous and high stress atmosphere with social outlets and educational activities, like company picnics and after-work lessons in anything from guitar making to personal finance. Polich encouraged visiting artists to present talks on contemporary art and gave holiday castings to the staff, thinking, “if you work at a foundry you should have art at home.” Early on, Polich knew that an art foundry was only as good as its people, and he made sure to credit his talented and dedicated employees. Ever the populist, Polich sought ways to share the transformative power of metal casting with the public as well. In the early 1970s, he partnered with Bob Spring, Sandy Saunders, and Frederick L. Kramer to launch a side business called Cast Your Own Bronze, Inc. which sold casting kits with modeling wax, wax-sculpting tools, and instructions. The venture failed, as the costs greatly exceeded the revenues.pouringtallixIt didn’t take long before a new generation of New York City-based artists discovered Polich to be the foundryman willing to make anything. Joel Shapiro (b. 1941) first used a small foundry in Queens for rough castings in iron. When he wanted to work with a wider variety of metals that were commercially unavailable, he went to Polich.  For Shapiro’s six-element series demonstrating relative density, Polich cast tin, zinc, and copper in 2 ½ inch cubes, and the artist milled steel, aluminum, and magnesium cubes from commercial stock. In the formative work, Untitled (Six Types of Metal), Shapiro explored the intrinsic properties of metal and Polich abandoned traditional foundry attitudes toward finishing. The piece was displayed in an important solo exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery in 1970. Working with Polich allowed Shapiro to present metal as metal, not as a medium of expression.

Abstract Expressionist painter Cleve Gray (1918–2004) helped to define Tallix as a place to work with molten metal as subject matter. After a half-year residency at the University of Hawaii in 1970, Gray returned to his rural Connecticut studio and assembled constructions in plaster, papier-mâché, and found wood and metal objects inspired by the flowing lava of Hawaiian volcanoes. In 1971, Gray went to Tallix to render the sculptures in metal to memorialize the elemental force of molten rock.  Polich used the lost wax process to cast approximately 40 bronzes, and taught Gray to how to finish and patinate them.  Twenty-nine of these sculptures were exhibited at the Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, in 1973. Each a variation on asymmetry and balance, the sculptures featured jutting forms that seemingly defied the heavy weight of metal.  Number Fifteen (1971) is a good example of the artist’s use of lava as a metaphor. Gray remained friendly with Polich and gave him several artworks, including the painting Roman Walls #38 (1980), which has three brushstrokes that echo the structure of Number Fifteen. Polich granted painters the ability to use the foundry as an expressive medium, and Gray, who had few preconceived notions about casting, embraced the process-oriented approach of Tallix.

In the first years of Tallix, Polich also established relationships with a number of realist sculptors, like John Dreyfuss , André Harvey, and Charles Parks. They were prolific and successful, and formed the main clientele that helped establish Polich’s reputation for quality in traditional bronze casting, finishing, and patination. Realist sculptors also presented technical challenges that were learning opportunities and helped Polich grow his foundry. Polich cast his first life-size figure for Sterett-Gittings Kelsey, the sitting dancer Barbara Lee Furbush of Sunshine, in 1972.  Gaining confidence, Polich took on a daunting last-minute job, the casting of Play at Second Base (1976), a group of two over-life-sized baseball players by sculptor Joe Brown for the new Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. Modern Art Foundry subcontracted Tallix to work on this project and gave the foundry a very short turnaround. Tallix employees worked around the clock to create their largest sculpture to date. Polich realized that as his business grew, he had to expand his facilities to meet the demand of artists and clients commissioning large-scale monuments and public art.

Peekskill, The River 1976–1986

In 1976, Polich made another leap, moving Tallix into a 10,000 square foot former coal storage shed on the Center Dock of Peekskill. The building possessed a rabbit warren of rooms, and faced an inspirational Hudson River landscape. Not long after moving to the river, Polich connected with Kenneth Tyler, who had produced complex, multimedia prints and multiples with Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, and others at Gemini G.E.L. Tyler had recently relocated to Bedford Village, NY, about twenty miles from Peekskill, opening Tyler Graphics in 1974. Tyler often relied on foundries and specialized fabricators to produce metal, plastic, and other elements for his elaborate prints and multiples. Because of its geographic proximity and reputation for quality, Tallix became a supplier for some of Tyler ’s projects. Tyler visited the foundry and photographed works in progress. From Tyler, Polich made contacts with visionary artists. He also learned how to work collaboratively with a big team on complex, multidisciplinary projects, while always keeping the artist at the center. At Center Dock, Polich first developed the capacity to build significant sculptures for artists with international reputations.

The first Tyler prints with Tallix elements were developed by Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997). Entablature I (1976) depicts architectural details and their shadows in Lichtenstein’s typical cartoon-realism. To achieve the semblance of sandstone texture on paper, Tyler contracted Tallix to produce a special bronze plate to imprint minute impressions. Over the next decade, Tyler and Polich collaborated on dozens of prints and multiples with Frank Stella, one with Terence La Noue, and an unusual folding screen with Helen Frankenthaler. Gateway (1988) includes three sandblasted bronze panels cast at Tallix. Polich and Putnam worked with Frankenthaler to adapt her stain-painting techniques for metal. Frankenthaler painted the panels on site, erecting a makeshift studio so she could work in private. Both Tallix’s workers and Polich recall this secluded space as antithetical to the open floor ethos of Tallix, though it enabled Frankenthaler to feel comfortable with the process.LICHTENSTEIN (2)Thanks to the success of the Entablature series, Lichtenstein learned that Polich could produce bronze works to his exacting specifications. Previously, Lichtenstein had relied on fabricators to create pictorial sculptures, such as the brass and glass Modern Sculpture with Glass Wave (1967). However, Lichtenstein wanted to make more intricate three- dimensional sculptures inspired by his still life painting. He had not found a shop that could satisfactorily fabricate metal sculpture from his narrow gauge wooden maquettes with elements less than an inch thick. Lichtenstein’s model maker, Carlos Ramos, also knew about Tallix and proposed casting instead of fabrication, an unexpected approach, as artists usually overlooked the fluid medium when making geometrical art. But the direct cast worked. Lamp on Table (1977) is an early realization of Lichtenstein’s meticulous working method. Lichtenstein first sketched elements such as tables, chairs, stools, lamps, and fishbowls . Then he mocked up the sketch into a precise full-scale study with colored tape on board. Using this plan, Ramos constructed a full-scale, three- dimensional wood model, which Tallix molded, cast in bronze, and partly painted. Lichtenstein’s assistant James DePasquale finished painting. Polich often personally delivered the finished bronze to the Castelli Gallery, swapping it for a new maquette to be cast.LichtensteinLichtenstein visited the foundry to review work in progress, as seen in Ken Tyler ’s intimate photograph of a friendly  consultation between Lichtenstein and Polich in 1977, but generally kept his hands off the work. Lichtenstein’s enormous production at Tallix is a testament to his trust in Polich and his employees. Tallix cast 65 bronzes and fabricated 11 large-scale monuments for Lichtenstein from the 1970s up to the artist’s death in 1997. The 12-foot high Lamp (1978), commissioned by the Gilman Paper Company in St. Marys, Georgia, became one of the first public contemporary-style artworks fabricated by Tallix. A scaled-up, fabricated version of the lamp in Lamp on Table, it incongruously uses metal to represent beams of light, becoming a monumental work of visual Pop art.

In the late 1970s Tallix became a full service foundry. Its manufacturing business thrived. Tallix produced decorative castings for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including replicas of a Roman falcon and an Egyptian cat. The Buffalo Bill Historical Center authorized Tallix to produce a new edition of 1000 bronze casts of Frederic Remington’s sculpture The Bronco Buster (1895). Tallix also started to gain notice for its conservation program, a side of the business that developed with high profile restorations such as that of the student bomb-damaged Alma Mater of Columbia University in 1978.

Sculptor Nancy Graves (1939–1995) and Dick Polich enjoyed possibly the most creative and productive partnership in American contemporary art between an individual artist and a foundry. Graves first went to Tallix at the suggestion of Tyler to cast her plaster sculpture Fossils (1969–70) in bronze. The unique lost wax casting, Ceridwen, Out of Fossils (1969–77), originally commissioned by Peter Ludwig and now at Museum Ludwig, Cologne, resembles a prehistoric animal excavation. Graves frequently traveled from Manhattan to Tallix, using the foundry as her auxiliary studio. She produced nearly 200 sculptures there from 1977 through the late 1980s.30  Graves’ work at Tallix exemplified the synergy between an experimental artist and a foundry eager to share all its resources to create brilliant, innovative work.31  “When a relationship like this is ‘on,’ it can be exciting and gratifying for both artist and craftsman and sometimes results in solutions the artist would not have reached alone,” Polich wrote in 1982.’Nancy Graves and Toni Putnam working on 'Taxidermy Form', (1979) in 1979 in Patina at Tallix BeaconGraves initially cast sculpted objects, like Ceridwen, using waxes and molds in the traditional fashion, before exploring the foundry process itself as a reproductive medium. Her first sculpture to use direct casting of found objects, Bathymet-Topograph (1978-9), features a bronze spiral at the top formed with casts of paper and wax, which were encased in a ceramic shell and then disintegrated by heat in an oven. With the burnout method, Graves could omit several steps in the casting process, skipping the mold and going directly from object to bronze, steel, and aluminum. Significantly, Graves gave a drawing of Bathymet-Topograph to Polich to commemorate the start of a ten-year phase of experimentation. Soon, Graves started casting the craft paper used at Tallix. Then she started bringing bags of fragile organic materials, such as plants, fruits, and fish, as well as plastic nautical rope, lampshades, and other flammable materials, to be cast in bronze.

Few artists had used burnout casting of organic materials since the 19th century, and few foundries were willing to take the risk. Polich and his staff devised and improvised new ways to cast these challenging materials, determining the amount and method of venting needing for each material to avoid blow-outs. Graves made selections from the finished bronze castings and welded them in exuberant constructions with abstract, open forms. Sometimes she included casts of waste products of the foundry, such as the gates through which the molten metal enters the mold.  The nine-foot high bronze and steel Looping (1985) is an especially vibrant example. At once whimsical, colored with bright polyurethane paint and enamel, and featuring a red platter proffering bronze casts of goodies from a Korean market (pea pods, banana blossoms), Looping is also conceptually rigorous, bridging divergent paths in modern sculpture. Graves combined the deadpan direct casting of Jasper Johns, who used bronze ironically, with the spirited welding of David Smith.

The painting of metal sculpture was another area in which Graves pioneered new materials and techniques. She worked closely with Toni Putnam to select the patina, either acrylic or enamel, usually in a high key typical of the 1980s style. Around this time artists first added dyes to patina, a technique, says Polich, which had long been taboo. A notebook and loose sheets of sketches show how Graves communicated color treatments to Putnam, though they also worked side-by-side. Polich and Putnam formed a close friendship with Graves, who gave the couple a number of sculptures and drawings as birthday and Christmas gifts, including a 1983 sculpture with enamel made from powdered glass, a technique devised by Polich and other artists. Because of his work with Graves, Polich became comfortable giving artists considerable space and freedom to experiment and improvise. And the artists, when granted access to the foundry’s procedures, often returned the favor by creating sculpture that self-reflexively represented its making in a foundry, bringing casting squarely into the postmodern vernacular.

To meet the growing demand for outsized castings, Polich built a three-story sand casting facility at Center Dock in 1982, which enabled larger and less expensive production than did the labor-intensive, investment molds and lost wax process.  The rapid growth at Tallix coincided with a surge in the contemporary art market and a taste for neo-expressionism, which also legitimated artists’ desire to play with the irregular, fluid processes of casting. The growing numbers of urban elite enriched by the Wall Street boom increasingly consumed art. Commercial galleries began to contract Polich to create new editions of classic modernist sculptures. Willem de Kooning worked with Polich to produce two editions of enlarged versions of three bronzes, originally executed in Rome. One, the six-inch high Untitled XII (1969), became the over nine-foot high Seated Woman (1980).

No longer satisfied with Tallix’s reputation as an anonymous “foundry in upstate New York,” Polich pushed the company to have a public identity and presence. In 1984, a Tallix exhibition at the New York Art Expo presented sculptures by Graves, de Kooning, Peggy Kauffman, and Clifford Ross, along with mural size documentary photos by Alan Strauber. This exhibition also included Lichtenstein’s 25-foot high Brushstrokes in Flight (1984) before its installation in the Port Columbus International Airport, Columbus, OH. Also that year the Katonah Gallery, in Katonah, NY, exhibited Transformations, a selection of twelve works cast at Tallix by Graves, de Kooning, Toni Putnam, Michael Steiner, and Frank Stella. A New York Times article identified Tallix as a “nationally known art foundry.” Other news reports focused on the impressive task of making, shipping, and installing large-scale works by Lichtenstein, Clement Meadmore, and Nathan Rapoport. As business grew, Polich became increasingly community minded, expanding his purview beyond his ongoing concern for the well being of employees. Polich established the Tallix Foundry Prize at the National Sculpture Society, which has been awarded at the annual exhibition since the 1980s. In 1985 Polich helped organize the first of a series of exhibitions of art by Tallix employees at the Garrison Art Center. The annual show ran through 1994. Over the years, there also have been internships for recent graduates of sculpture programs to receive training on site and an allotment of bronze for their own artwork.

Many artists increasingly validated bronze as a conceptually rich art medium, but some modernist sculptors remained skeptical. Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988), famous for direct carvings of wood and stone that fused modernist and Japanese traditions, had begrudgingly worked with many foundries since the late 1920s. Towards the end of his career, in the mid 1980s, Noguchi contracted Tallix to cast in bronze at least 17 wood, plaster, stone, and plasticene sculptures, props, and models that dated from the 1930s to the 1960s. He still harbored deep reservations about the value of reproducing art in bronze, concerned the original form would lose its aura of authenticity. In 1988, Tallix sand cast Strange Bird (to the Sunflower), an exemplary bronze version of the iconic 1945 slate original. Noguchi’s studio assembled the interlocking forms, originally designed with a folded paper maquette. Strange Bird, like Tallix’s casts of Noguchi’s wooden prop for a Martha Graham dance project and plaster models for the unbuilt Riverside Drive Playground, has a rich black patina that recalls basalt, making it resemble stone more than a contemporary aluminum fabrication. Polich reassured Noguchi that each casting was unique, and bore the hands and craftsmanship of numerous artisans every step of the way.

Tallix’s sixteen-year run in Peekskill reached an unexpected crossroads with the controversial sculpture of Jeff Koons (b. 1955). Polich wisely accommodated a confident young artist whose work was expensive to produce yet intended to satirize art as a system of luxury goods. Over a two-year period, Koons, then still working as a commodities broker, brought around 40 banal sporting goods and gift shop tchotchkes to Tallix. The foundry made molds and cast the objects in metal. Koons performed little manual work on the sculptures, claiming their translation from one medium to the other to be his art. “I’m basically the idea person. I’m not physically involved in the production,” Koons said at the time.  The Equilibrium series included a bronze raft Lifeboat (1985) and the Luxury and Degradation series included the stainless steel Jim Beam–J.B. Turner Train (1986). The Statuary series included the reflective stainless steel Rabbit, now an icon of contemporary art, and also Cape Codder Troll (1986), a mythological figure with nearly cubistic facets that plays with the distinction between tourist kitsch and high art. Koons, like Noguchi, appreciated the power of a foundry to transform anything into art. The two artists differed about the merits of this semantic shift. Polich’s openness to redefine art and willingness to subordinate the foundry to artists’ prerogatives fostered Koons and a younger generation of artists eager to use the foundry to reproduce found and manufactured objects and materials. In the postmodern age, the intensive craft of foundry work ironically served conceptual art.

Beacon 1986–1995

Riding the continuing surge in the financial and art markets, Polich bought a large complex of buildings in Beacon, NY, 15 miles upriver from Peekskill. The encouragement of financial backer Lee Balter and other members of the Tallix board of directors aided Polich’s risky decision to significantly upsize his business. In 1986, Polich moved Tallix from the intimate quarters and sweeping vistas of Center Dock to the Beacon industrial site, formerly occupied by the Green Fan Company, consisting of three buildings on eight acres. “This is a gigantic change and even the boldest of us feel twinges of anxiety,” Polich wrote in a brochure announcing the move. The over 80,000 square foot facility had plenty of space for receiving, producing, and storing work of all scales. The 46-foot high ceiling allowed enormous works to be constructed indoors, and even larger ones could be constructed outdoors. Polich worked with Dutchess County Community College to establish a work training program to prepare qualified employees for Tallix.Beacon 0018In Beacon, Tallix shifted from being a private business to a public institution, a large and active art factory that contrasted with the then-derelict downtown. Lichtenstein, Graves, Noguchi, and Koons continued to produce some of their best work with Polich in the foundry’s first years at Beacon. New artists with public and private commissions also came through the door. Robert Kushner made cast bronze wall sculptures for the lobby of the Entex Building, Houston (1986) and Richard Artschwager fabricated components of Sitting/Stance, Battery Park City Hudson River Promenade (1988). Nancy Graves completed her largest work, the 27-foot high stainless steel fabricated Peripeteia, commissioned for the new Oakbrook Terrace Tower, Chicago, in 1988. Polich opened the foundry to public tours, which frequently included a spectacular metal pour, with sparks flying, presided over by Polich himself. One tour allowed visitors to witness actor Anthony Quinn at work on his own sculpture. Employees produced a comic zine highlighting some of Tallix’s quirky characters. In Beacon, the art foundry became a distinctive culture, shaped by, but larger than the persona of its founder.0004The corporate structure of Tallix allowed it to adapt to the “new world order” following the end of the Cold War. The art market began its first period of rapid globalization in the early 1990s. New collections, fairs, and biennial exhibitions opened up in Asia, Russia,and South America. Polich, as usual, situated himself on the forefront. In 1990, he merged Tallix with the English company Bullers Plc, a fine art and sculpture foundry group. Polich became president of the newly named Tallix Morris Singer Ltd, which included foundries in Basingstoke and Birmingham, England, and Toronto, Canada, with a fourth opening later in Oakland, CA. The new conglomerate aimed to satisfy an international clientele with a global presence, coordinated marketing, and economies of scale. In a letter to friends of Tallix, Polich wrote that the move would provide artists with a greater range of services, and employees with more secure jobs and even retirement plans.Initially, the merger led to a burst of new commissions. Tallix completed major public works by Richard Pousette-Dart (Cathedral), Alexander Liberman (Venture), and Bill Reid (The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, the Black Canoe), installed in the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.  At its peak in the early 1990s, Tallix had about 185 employees at Beacon.0001Around this time Polich took on Charles Dent’s quixotic quest to cast a 24-foot high bronze horse, based on recently discovered sketches by Leonardo da Vinci. A retired airline pilot, Dent had initiated the Leonardo’s Horse project in 1979. Dent contracted Tallix to make the casting of his model, and Polich became intimately involved with the planning and engineering. Presenting his technical notes at an academic symposium in 1991, Polich determined that da Vinci’s original scheme to cast the statue in one mold using 80 tons of bronze couldn’t be realized. It would result in a cumbrous sculpture with four-inch thick walls. The Duke of Sforza made the right choice in 1482, Polich opined, to use the bronze for cannon instead of “having one of the biggest ingots in the world, vaguely resembling a horse.” Polich presented a practical contemporary approach to this Renaissance conundrum, and planned to use eight to ten tons of bronze in sectional casts, with walls about ⅜ inch thick, supported by an internal steel armature. In his “collaboration” with a revered artist dead nearly 500 years, Polich insisted that the artist’s vision and concept would be best served by contemporary practices, not a blind faithfulness to Leonardo’s original, yet unworkable, proposal. 

The Leonardo’s Horse project epitomized how, with the merger, Polich endeavored to maintain a high profile for Tallix by initiating publications and exhibitions promoting Tallix. He hired photographer Ted Spiegel to visit the foundry once a month to document the many ongoing projects at various and evolving stages. A pair of exhibitions also highlighted current art production at Tallix. In 1991 the Century Association in New York City mounted Metallics: Art and Craft at the Tallix Foundry, featuring recent sculptures and documentary photos by Speigel. The exhibition Contemporary Russian Sculpture included new castings by artists selected by Polich on a trip to the former Soviet Union. The show appeared simultaneously at the Jonathan Poole Gallery, in Woodstock, England, and Tallix in Beacon. Neither exhibition gained much notice, however. The short-lived Tallix Morris Singer dissolved by November 1991 when the contemporary art market contracted in the recession. Polich and his backers bought back Tallix from Buller, and Tallix become independent again, but Polich would not regain full control of the foundry.

Throughout these corporate ups and downs, Frank Stella (b. 1936) took the lead in stimulating a new period of creativity with Polich at the immense Beacon facility. Polich and Stella completed their first project together when Tallix cast bronze and fabricated aluminum elements of Stella’s Playskool sculptures, an edition of nine wall reliefs published by Tyler Graphics in 1983. A few years later, inspired by the sight of beluga whales behind glass in an aquarium, Stella initiated the Moby-Dick series. The series began as prints with Tyler Graphics in 1985, moved into colorfully painted cast aluminum reliefs based on paper maquettes in 1988, and extended into a series of monumental sculp- tures produced at Tallix, the last in Of the 266 unique works in the Moby-Dick series, a large proportion of the sculptures were produced at Tallix. Through this process, Stella transitioned from being a painter to a sculptor, abetted by the free rein granted him by Polich.

Polich activated the entire foundry for Stella’s experimentation, which involved every traditional foundry technique and a host of new ones Stella improvised on-site. Polich called this practice “a kind of careful carelessness.” Some techniques involved sheer violence and force, in acts of creative destruction. Polich allowed Tallix workers to crush and batter an industrial tank, which Stella incorporated into the enormous The Town-Ho’s Story (installed in Chicago in 1993). Writer Robert Wallace estimated that 70 to 80 workers were involved in the production of this 18-foot high work.56 Polich also showed Stella how to control molten aluminum, to pour and splatter it so it would solidify in random and painterly formations. In one of Polich’s test pieces for Stella, a tin based alloy with a low melting point, formed expressive shapes without burning the supporting Plexiglas. Stella first used poured aluminum elements in his “Q” relief series, such as Brit (Q-6) from 1990. A small, untitled work features some of the elements, such as free pours, distressed forms, smoke rings, fabricated sheets, and cast gating, which are seen in many of Stella’s larger works of the same era. The stainless steel sculpture, a “piece of a piece” related to the “Alsace Lorraine” series (such as Bionville of 1992), remains unknown because much of Stella’s enormous production of this time period is not fully documented.

In 1994 Stella brought famed architect Richard Meier to Tallix, where he created a range of sculptures that cast and reconfigured elements from his architectural models, as well as elements of the casting process itself. The presence of Meier also indicated a new market for Polich’s business. Contemporary architects began designing facades and interior walls clad in cast and fabricated bronze, steel, or aluminum panels, a tactile alternative to the featureless curtain glass wall. Polich offered artists and designers a range of possibilities, demonstrated by his numerous test plates of steel, copper, and aluminum with unique textured surfaces cast from string, lace, and other soft materials. A one-time aspiring architect, Polich’s most accomplished test pieces and samples were never adopted, however, because the results had “the curse of randomness,” lacking digital precision. In subsequent years, the panels of the copper-bronze façade of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s American Folk Art Museum building (2001) were cast at Tallix. In 2007, Polich also produced a custom fence for Herzog de Meuron’s 40 Bond Street apartment building. The wavy metal forms, inspired by downtown graffiti, started as digital patterns that were machined in Styrofoam then cast in aluminum.

Il Cavallo 5Il Cavallo 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the closing of Lippincott’s workshop in 1994, Tallix began to take on more large-scale fabrication jobs, such as Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Torn Notebook (1994–1996) for the University of Nebraska. Tallix’s portfolio remained diverse. The foundry continued to restore cast and fabricated sculptures, often correcting problems in the original construction. Polich refabricated Alexander Liberman’s deteriorating Adonai  in 2000 and repaired Zhang Huan’s Three-Legged Buddha in 2012 for Storm King Art Center. As a contract foundry, Tallix also produced posthumous casts of works by Donald De Lue and Paul Fiene. Tallix manufactured multiples for Harry Jackson and Erté. In 1995, Tallix produced a series of commemorative sculptures for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Through the expansion and ownership changes of Tallix, however, Polich felt embattled and adrift. Worse, he became removed from the creative process. Tallix was no longer his foundry and Polich itched to move on. In April 1995, Polich sent a letter to clients and artists, informing them that he planned to sell his stock in Tallix and resign his position as president, remaining as a consultant three days a week. By the end of the year, he left the business altogether. For Polich, it was 1968 all over again. He prepared for another personal and professional revolution.

Polich Art Works 1996–2006

The next act in the foundry life of Dick Polich began in 1996. He was 64, around the age when many people start retirement. Polich aimed to recover the close collaboration with artists that he cherished from the early days of Tallix. He started a new foundry, Polich Art Works (PAW), with financial support from friends including Frank Stella. PAW took over a 55,000 square foot former warehouse, roughly the area of a football field, in Rock Tavern, NY, near the Stewart International Airport and across the Hudson from Tallix in Beacon. Some craftspeople stayed at Tallix, while others joined Polich’s new operation. The 354-foot long building had four-story ceilings and an overhead bridge crane with a 50-ton capacity. For the first time, Polich could consolidate all the stations for metal casting and fabrication under one roof. “At PAW, we have a space that is open and free: skylights, windows, almost no walls, almost no boundaries,” a promotional brochure averred. At PAW, Polich reclaimed his role as the orchestra conductor, his preferred analog for his role as both the interpreter of the artist’s composition and the leader of dozens of skilled players.

Work on PAW commenced in Fall 1996, with Polich building out his facility as his team constructed Frank Stella’s major new commission for the Pohang Iron and Steel Company of South Korea. Stella pushed the foundry to use all available techniques at the time, including forming, crushing, ripping, digital cutting, 3D scanning, digital enlarging, and sand and lost wax casting, as well as free pouring without molds. This included detonating two-dozen sticks of dynamite deep inside the sculpture while buried six feet underground. In summer 1997, Stella and Polich completed Amabel, an enormous stainless work 33 feet high by 27 feet wide by 27 feet deep, and weighing over 35 tons. Polich recalls the restless demands of Stella to try new things as exhausting but exhilarating. This period became a second peak for Polich, after that of Nancy Graves, during which he fully involved himself in an artist’s methods.0011Watercolors and ink drawings by visiting artist Don Nice and PAW employee and sculptor Emil Alzamora capture the energy and celebration in the early days of this foundry. Major public works of the first few years in Rock Tavern include Louise Bourgeois’s 25-foot high fountain for Pittsburgh (1999), subcontracted by Modern Art Foundry, and Eric Fischl’s 14-foot high Arthur Ashe Memorial: Soul in Flight, installed at the United States Tennis Center, Flushing, New York (2000).

Meanwhile, over at Tallix, Polich’s ethos continued to affect his former foundry, inspiring workers to strive to work closely with artists to realize their concepts. Under the leadership of Peter Homestead, hired by Polich in 1986, Tallix continued traditions started by the absent “spiritual leader.”  The staff still held annual art exhibitions, shifting to the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, and made annual Christmas castings of their own designs. Business was business. Artists like Tom Otterness and Joel Shapiro remained personally fond of Polich but still made art at Tallix, including Otterness’s Gulliver (2002). Employees still found Tallix a stimulating place to work. The public still enjoyed the open tours. Journalists still considered Tallix a cultural anchor of the invigorated Beacon arts district, especially with the opening of Dia:Beacon in 2003.  Despite these successes, Leonardo’s Horse, titled Il Cavallo, stands out as the signature work of Tallix’s post-Polich years. The public presentation of the full-scale model in 1996 landed on the front page of The New York Times. In 1998 Tallix cast a new version, sculpted by Nina Akamu, and put the horse on display the next year before shipping it to Milan, once again receiving worldwide media attention. Though seen by thousands of visitors, it flopped aesthetically, ending up outside the Milan racetrack, miles from city center. More a work of historical imagination than art, Il Cavallo ended up being the best-known product of Tallix Beacon.

Polich continued to innovate at PAW, with the complete embrace of digital design. Polich had adopted computer- aided design and production in the early 1990s to increase precision and speed of cutting and fabrication. It took longer to harmonize the new digital tools with analog casting, which is far more labor-intensive and hands-on. Rona Pondick (b. 1952) was among the first artists to creatively fuse traditional metal casting with digital design and 3D printing. Appropriately, her sculptural forms are hybrids themselves. Pondick began using digital tools in 1998 to reduce the size of a cast of her head for two of the eight figures in Monkeys (1998–2001). Four years later, Pondick started to work with a different part of her body—her hand—to hybridize a different animal.

Pondick’s uncanny Cat (2002–5) is composed of a sculpted body of a feline combined with an enlarged life cast of the artist’s hand. The multistage process indicated a new way to simultaneously design and enlarge sculpture, updating the traditional pantograph, a machine with a long boom used to trace forms in a larger scale. Using the latest software and 3D printing technology, Pondick scanned the resin cast of her hand and digitally printed it three times larger. Surprised by the crater-like surface of the skin, Pondick worked closely with the PAW technicians to adjust the digital design so the scaled up skin appeared more naturalistic. The corrected oversized hand was digitally printed in green resin, over 18 inches long. A second mold was made and fitted with the sculpted cat to create the resin master model. Finally, the work was cast in stainless steel and the body finished with a high polish and the hand in a matte surface to show off the detailed texture. The protracted, and expensive, process became increasingly stressful for both Pondick and Polich, yet both were willing to be forgiving because the results were satisfying from a technological and aesthetic standpoint. Perhaps unwittingly, Cat can be seen as a symbol of the alliance of artist and foundry, abetted by 21st century technology and traditional craftsmanship. The hand form is a visual pun for the foundry, which used a paw print as its mark.0009 (8)Invigorated by his renewed collaborations with artists, Polich extended his brand into the territory between sculpture and jewelry. In 2000, he launched PAW Precious Metals, a new venture to cast small-scale work in gold and silver, producing beautiful objects with the presence of art and the intimacy of jewelry. A traveling exhibition, Silver + Gold, curated by Patricia Hamilton, launched the enterprise at the Baldwin Gallery, Aspen, CO, in 2000. Twelve new works, by artists such as Kiki Smith, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Issac Witkin, Maya Lin, and Bryan Hunt, were featured in a handsome catalogue. Frank Stella’s Miami Bandshell (2000), a miniature version of his band shell project for Miami commissioned in 1998, appeared in the exhibition as well. The radiating swirls were inspired by Stella’s drive to invent a new geometry of sculpture that propelled the two-dimensional picture plane into three dimensions. These forms, derived from smoke rings and a Brazilian sun hat (a flat piece of foam with radiating cuts), appeared in the National Gallery of Art commission Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, Ein Schauspiel, 3X, made at Polich Art Works in 2001.

The large proportion of women artists in the Silver + Gold exhibition was no exception to Polich’s current practice. At PAW, Polich created an open, cooperative atmosphere that seemed to be more welcoming of women artists than the earlier incarnations of Tallix. For decades, Nancy Graves and Sterett-Gittings Kelsey were among the few women to produce sustained bodies of work with Polich. The mid-1990s ushered in another shift in American culture, with many more women moving into large scale, industrial, or fabricated sculpture. An increasing number of women began working with Polich, creating works ranging from the platoons of standing figures of Magdalena Abakanowicz to the intimate gestures of Janine Antoni (b. 1964). Cradle (1999) is a two-ton steel excavator bucket in which other types of metal scoops, from a baby spoon to a tractor claw, are nested like Russian dolls. All the elements are cast from steel melted from a section cut from the largest bucket. Antoni compares casting and construction to child-rearing, both acts of creation that involve some degree of dislocation and pain. Another work, the silver Umbilical (2000), incorporates a baby spoon with direct cast impressions of Antoni’s mouth and her mother ’s hand. An intimate gesture of maternal nourishment, Umbilical turns the experience inside out, exposing the dark interiors of familial bonds.

At PAW, Polich continued to maintain close relationships with longtime clients. Tom Otterness (b. 1952) began working with Polich in the early 1980s at the suggestion of his then dealer Brooke Alexander and continues to make monumental works with Polich in the present. Tallix produced Otterness’s celebrated The Tables in 1987 and The Real World for Battery Park City in 1992. PAW also created the cast bronze Mad Mom (2001), nearly ten feet high, installed at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MI. For its major Otterness exhibition in 2006, the Meijer wished to have a piece that would explain the complicated process of lost wax casting, in which a sculpture goes from a positive (model) to negative (mold) to positive form (completed work), with many painstaking steps in between. The educational and playful How a Bronze Is Made (2006), a collaboration between the artist and foundry, tells the story of making a 12-inch version of Mad Mom from initial sketches to final bronze. The drawings and models by the artist, combined with the tools and casting materials of the foundry, form a witty and didactic installation.0004 (5)Just as Polich helped initiate Beacon’s renaissance, he became a proponent of art development in his new community of Newburgh, NY. In 2004, Polich established the 10,000 square foot, four-floor Yellow Bird Gallery, named after a Brancusi sculpture Polich admired, as an art center to help revive Newburgh’s waterfront area. Yellow Bird became a showplace for sculpture produced at the foundry, presenting major exhibitions by Michael Steiner in 2005 and Emil Alzamora in 2006. The venture didn’t last long, however, despite positive media and community interest. Once again, Polich focused all his energies into growing his foundry. In October 2006, Polich Art Works and Tallix merged after a decade of competition to form Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry. Roughly three-quarters of the Tallix staff rejoined Polich.  The combined staff blended well, as both foundries were born of Polich’s vision and vitality.

Polich Tallix 2006–2014

The range and diversity of artists who have produced work at Polich Tallix since 2006 speak to the true globalization of the art market. The deep pockets of collectors and galleries are able to support the expensive casting and production of craft-intensive metal sculptures by a great number of artists with international backgrounds, including Ghada Amer, Chris Ofili, and Zhang Xiaogang. Artists working at Polich Tallix have continued to present new challenges that result in brilliantly conceptualized and crafted works of art. Polich relishes the details of these conspicuous displays of labor and process. Charles Ray brought hundreds of components of a tractor that were hand-made by his studio assistants, including the engine parts and crawler treads, to be individually cast in aluminum and then reassembled to become his trompe l’oeil sculpture Untitled (Tractor) (2003–5). Another artist, Christopher Wool, sent in a crumpled piece of wire a few inches high as the model for his sculpture, which was fabricated in steel and specially engineered. The resulting Wire #2 (2012) was installed in the front of the Guggenheim Museum during Wool’s 2013 retrospective. Do Ho Suh’s towering Karma originated in a digital file sent to Polich Tallix in 2010. There was no physical model until Polich’s team digitally printed it, then scaled it up to 22 feet high. Ursula von Rydingsvard had her large cedar sculpture Ona cast in bronze at Polich Tallix and then installed outside the Barclays Center, Brooklyn. Though monumental abstract sculpture has been a staple of the New York City landscape since the 1960s, the difficult and expensive task of creating, transporting, and installing a nearly six ton metal sculpture continues to fascinate.

Other current areas of innovation for Polich are the use of new alloys. Currently, Polich is keen on ductile iron, a more flexible and durable form of cast iron. Though ductile iron has been available for decades, and Duca used it at MIT, Polich only recently has been offering it to artists making major works. Martin Puryear (b. 1941) is based in the Hudson Valley, so Polich Tallix is his local foundry. Working with Polich since 2005, Puryear is a meticulous wood carver who, like Noguchi, has slowly accepted the unique properties and possibilities of metal casting. Also like Noguchi, Puryear is a designer of sensitive public monuments that use an abstracted geometric vocabulary to reference historical experience. Polich Tallix is casting Puryear ’s Slavery Memorial for Brown University, installed on campus in August 2014. Puryear’s 15-inch diameter maquette, seen here in ductile iron, will be scaled up to over 11 feet in diameter. The form is a dome that supports three links of a broken chain. The work appears to be the visible portion of a subterranean ball and chain, a potent symbol of the university’s past connections to slave owners and traders which was little known until Brown president Ruth Simmons formed the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice in 2003. Ductile iron is an ideal material for the memorial, recalling both historical artifact and minimalist sculpture.Ursula_Visit-8245Puryear ’s concentrated forms relate to an earlier Polich-produced memorial, Joel Shapiro’s two-part bronze Loss and Regeneration (1993), installed in the front plaza of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, which Tallix cast directly from wood timbers. Among all the artists who have worked with Polich, Shapiro has perhaps the longest working relationship, dating back to 1969. In 2011, Polich Tallix fabricated and painted Shapiro’s towering 32-foot blue aluminum For Jennifer, installed outside the Denver Art Museum. Continuing to produce work at Polich Tallix in the present, Shapiro has developed an untitled series of ductile iron floor sculptures cast from burnt wood. These works revisit his earliest metal sculpture while utilizing one of Polich’s preferred metals of today, which has both the gravitas of iron and the minute surface detailing of bronze. The quality and duration of this 45-year relationship between an artist and fabricator is unusual in contemporary American sculpture, and perhaps can only be compared to artists who work with printmakers. The artist-printmaker relationship has been explored in countless exhibitions, while the sculptor-foundry relationship is only now being documented.

A Hudson Valley Master

The Hudson River Valley was one of the first areas of America to industrialize. It was also the first to adopt environmentalist values and shift to a service economy. Polich Tallix is an exemplar of the technology and craft-oriented “creative class” businesses that have become the innovators in the new American economy as heavy industry and large-scale manufacturing have moved abroad. In Tallix’s first ten years, numerous specialized art foundries followed Polich’s lead and opened up across America, notably Carlson and Company in San Fernando, CA, in 1971, the Johnson Atelier near Princeton, NJ, in 1974, and the Walla Walla Foundry in Walla Walla, WA in 1980. Some grew into business competitors for Polich, while other foundries, clustered in New York, Colorado, and New Mexico, served a regional clientele. Many have closed. New international competitors have opened in Britain and China. Running a successful foundry that overcomes the fluctuating global markets in commodities, labor, and art is a perennial challenge.Employee2-31The need for a high quality American art foundry like Polich Tallix remains as compelling today as in the early 1960s, when Dick Polich learned his craft at MIT. Polich Tallix’s proximity to the population centers of the Northeast allows artists to visit the foundry repeatedly and monitor the progress of their works and make alterations and interventions as needed. Artists can be far more involved, and even hands-on, when the foundry is 80, not 8,000, miles away. The propinquity of Polich and the extraordinary artists with whom he works allows for the push-pull between artist and foundry that can transcend formula and resultin truly innovative work. Polich Tallix, like Tallix and PAW before it, continues Polich’s role as conductor of a crackerjack orchestra, fulfilling an artist’s creative vision. “The artist’s desire rules us,” Polich wrote of Tallix in 1982. This statement is equally true today at Polich Tallix.

In 2012, Dick Polich entered his 80th year. He works in the foundry practically every day. Making art for artists remains the center of his life, as it has since 1969.

Reprinted with permission of the author. First published in the exhibition catalogue Dick Polich: Transforming Metal into Art, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY New Paltz, 2014.