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06 Dec 2016

Active Viewers Wanted: The Artist Behind a New El Paseo Sculpture Is Inspired by Movement

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"Sol III" by John Neumann. "Sol III" by John Neumann.

John Neumann’s sculptures have been featured in solo exhibitions and group shows throughout the country for decades. His abstractions are thematically tied to movement, in series focusing on mythology, dance/music—and even the universe.

Neumann is prolific; for his current Sol series, Neumann has produced 14 pieces since February—and will complete another three before the end of this year. In fact, one of those sculptures was just given a rather prominent temporary home: “Sol III” is an 8-foot, 9-inch sculpture selected by the city of Palm Desert for a two-year display in the El Paseo median between San Luis Rey Avenue and Larkspur Lane.

“Sol III” includes bright, cheerful red and blue linear bars holding a yellow sphere, offering a lyrical feeling through its Constructivist style. Considering some Constructivists seek to create works that have active viewers, the placement of “Sol III” on El Paseo is perfect.

“Constructivism is about negative space or the orchestration of positive to negative space,” Neumann says. “The Sol series is about the relationship of linear elements to a sphere. It is the movement of how one color works off another, with a sphere as the catalyst that sets them in motion.”

Other influences on Neumann’s sculpture include Surrealism, with its “auto-sense of thought/dream and creation,” he says, and “Abstract Expressionism, because it has a look of spontaneity, as if it just happened—even if it took a long time to create!”

Beginning with a thumbnail sketch, Neumann develops a design from which he creates a maquette—about 10 inches tall, maybe a little higher.

“Changes always occur from the sketch, since the space is different when it is realized three-dimensionally,” Neumann says.

An intermediate-scale sculpture is next—generally 3 to 4 feet tall, a standard gallery size.

The sculpture is made of steel and then painted with automotive paint or acrylic enamel paint. “Acrylic enamel paint is quicker-drying and tougher—I think more durable, and better for the environment!” Neumann says. Prices of works in the Sol series range from $1,500 up to about $25,000.

“My work has always been inspired by movement,” Neumann says. “Visual movement is the same; sometimes, the thought process and inspiration to capture something in motion is different.”

Earlier series were mainly inspired by dance and music, with sculpture titles like “Waltz,” “Flamingo,” “Slow Dancing,” “Swing” and “Jitterbug.” He also made one sculpture titled “Take the A Train.”

“Whether about mythology, dance or the universe,” says Neumann, “my biggest concern is capturing something in motion. The newer pieces (in the Sol series) are like drawing in space—very linear and not as massive as with others. With the cosmic story between negative and positive space, the work is open.”

In some of Newmann’s older pieces, the edges were closed, encompassing space; in the Sol series, the axis points seem to unleash playful bolts of energy with airy negative space.

John Neumann’s sculpture is on display at a La MOD in Palm Springs; Rondevoo Art + Design in Palm Desert; and Heath Gallery in Palm Springs. Neumann lives and works in Desert Hot Springs. He is available by appointment at 661-428-1125.

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