Spool, 2005. Basalt, 11 x 26 in. diameter. Photo:Terrence McCarthy.

Grabbing Emotions: A Conversation with Richard Deutsch

In contrast to many artists of his generation, Richard Deutsch fearlessly embraces beauty. Whether designing sculpture on a grand scale or producing pieces in his studio on the California coast north of Santa Cruz, he aims for work infused with feeling and meaning. Deutsch’s career began with clay, inspired by the Japanese styles of Bizen and Shigaraki and the work of Peter Voulkos. A year at the American Academy in Rome profoundly shaped his thinking. Studying weathered, collapsed, and re-assembled structures at Pompeii and Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli, the seeds of his fascination with the mystery of time and evolution were planted. The effects of the Italian ruins are apparent in one of his most formidable sculptures, Seven Stones (1999). The 50-ton work—at 20 by 36 by 17 feet one of his single largest creations—is composed of seven delicately balanced granite slabs installed against a panoramic backdrop of rolling green hills in California’s Napa Valley. Voyage set the tone for his public work. Made for the Oakland City Center in 1991, the solid bronze wall relief consists of World War II ship propellers. These and other industrial objects, from gears and turnbuckles to farm equipment, seduce Deutsch with their intriguing shapes, functions, and histories.