Big Brass Bayou

Submitted by Chris Natrop

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Client: Baker McKenzie Law Firm, Houston, TX

Location: Houston, TX, United States

Completion date: 2014

Project Team

Artist, fabricator

Chris Natrop

Chris Natrop Studio

Art Consultant

Julie Kinzelman

Kinzelman Art Consulting

Overview

Big Brass Bayou (2014) is site-specific artwork commissioned through Kinzelman Art Consulting for Baker McKenzie, Houston. The custom sculpture fills 3 niches at 206 x 96 inches each and is made of acid cut brass with polished mirror finish. Made of 91 pieces of mirror-polished brass, Big Brass Bayou is an abstracted montage of a meandering wetland. While the overall composition and imagery are products of the artist’s imagination, the general concept is motivated by Houston’s Buffalo Bayou and its native river plants and flowers.

Goals

The goal was to create a wall sculpture within three alcoves of Baker McKenzie's new office space in Houston, TX. I chose polished brass as the medium which as an old-school regal quality appropriate for a law firm. The client requested the design connect with nature local to the area. I based the design off of Houston's Buffalo Bayou. I wanted the design to flow like a meandering stream, but also directly interact with the confines of architecture. The finished piece beckons a visitor to travel along its path and visually interact with reflection cast by it mirror polished surface.

Process

The initial artwork was created in the studio out of hand-cut paper. The contoured imagery resulting from those paper silhouettes were electronically transferred into the computer for further development. Finished outlines were loaded into a 3D computer model and then physically fabricated out of highly polished brass sheeting. The actual metal cutting was done via photo-chemical etching, an acid-based process that cuts through the brass precisely without distortion. Each component was then hand polished and installed in this precise configuration.

Additional Information

My process for cutting metal is very unique. As opposed to laser cutting, which can warp and burn delicate pre-finished metal, I use a process called photo chemical etching. PCE is a completely non-destructive process, producing perfect, pristine cuts. Making large-scale artworks in this way is completely novel. My studio has developed this process with a local vendor, and remains a hallmark of my esthetic.