Crossing the Threshold with Hans Van de Bovenkamp

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BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY DEC 16, 2016

Internationally acclaimed sculpture artist Hans Van de Bovenkamp comes to Sarasota this weekend for the opening of his latest exhibition, Gateways, opening tonight in Alfstad& Contemporary. Known for his monumental bronze sculptures, Gateways offers a glimpse into Van de Bovenkamp’s artistic process through watercolors and small-scale sculpture, as well as introducing the artist’s latest endeavor—a series of custom-made bronze sculptural gates, melding function and artistry with the symbolic nature of the portal itself. Opening tonight with a reception at 5:30pm, the artist will be in attendance.

Sarasota sculpture enthusiasts may recognize Van de Bovenkamp’s work from the Season of Sculpture Bayfront exhibition in 2013, but the intimate presentation at Alfstad& offers a novel perspective on the artist typically known for large-scale constructions. On the wall, a collection of watercolors reveals the beginning of the process. Whimsical and highly colorful, it’s the artist at play, exploring shape and form before making the jump to working in bronze. Arranged on pedestals through the gallery, mid-range and small-scale sculptures reflect these early designs, but in their creation also transcend. Impressive but never intimidating, Van de Bovenkamp’s soft, flowing forms and inviting textures evoke a welcoming presence—an inanimate friendliness.

Also on display, a trio of maquettes introduces Van de Bovenkamp’s most recent project—from which the exhibition takes its name—the construction of sculptural and unconventional gates to bring art and atmosphere to any locale. For Van de Bovenkamp, gateways and portals serve as more than mere physical passageways but philosophical statements and journeys in themselves, and should be appreciated and utilized to this potential. “When you are on one side, you are who you are presently,” he says. “But in the middle of the portal there is a transformation, and when you go out the other side you’ve left some of you behind. You have gone into a new spirit consciousness.” Through the installation of something other than the tired wrought iron, a particular message can be sent from the owner to the visitor, a certain atmosphere invoked.

Tracing the roots of his craft back to the menhir sculptures left by tribal peoples and ancient civilizations around the globe, though technological advances have allowed Van de Bovenkamp’s sculptures to soar beyond the heights of Stonehenge, there remains the core humanizing element that connects person to place and it’s still needed today. Great skyscrapers may dwarf the individual, he says, “but when you place a portal or a sculpture, you humanize the environment.” Like a carnation in the lapel, it’s the element that brings the whole operation together and draws the human interest. “People don’t even necessarily look at the suit,” says Van de Bovenkamp. “They look at the flower.”

Opening tonight at 5:30pm in Alstad& Contemporary, Gateways will be on display through January 20.

Pictured: "Stonehenge" gate maquette by Hans Van de Bovenkamp. Photo courtesy of Alfstad& Contemporary.

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