Tom Fruin is a New York-based artist that is perhaps best known for creating a landmark for the borough and for Brooklyn art. The Watertower (a sculptural piece situated on a DUMBO rooftop) raises 20 ft. into the air off the Manhattan Bridge. Self-illuminated by natural daylight, this plexi-glass structure stands out like a rainbow against the city backdrop occupying passerby’s gazed in awe.
As Fruin prepares for his upcoming solo exhibition at Mike Weiss Gallery, I caught up with him in his Dumbo studio and got a sneak peek at some new and old stuff.
How did you come around to work with plexiglass?
Some of the earlier work I did was collecting drug bags from the streets and housing projects then compose them into a quilt or flag that reminded me of what I saw and my experiences there. Then I would sow them together and make objects. So, I saw it like a portrait of the location, but then I realized that I could have the location speak for itself if I brought in larger sculptures.
I was invited to Copenhaggen to make a piece from a bunch of plexiglass they had collected, and they said it reminded them of my earlier work when they saw these colors of squares. They were almost the same thing as my drug-bag quilts. So I went there to make a sculpture, which I’m going to be showing at the Dumbo Arts Festival (September 24th – 27th).
What kind of role does color play in your work?
You know, every now and then people would ask me if I have a favorite drug bag, and I used to like the patterned once. Now, I’m really into the black bags because if you bought something from someone, you wouldn’t even know what’s in there. That’s why it’s more about what’s more interesting for me. Now that I’ve moved on to steel, it’s more about the patterns. It’s not just colors, per say, now that I’m working bigger… certain things are decided before I go into the piece and I tend to think about the color in advance and it has become more important.
You said you think about the color in advance, and the water tower is in such a major spot; it’s down the river from the Statue of Liberty. Do you consider perspective in advance as well?
The location and perspective are extremely important, too. With the water tower, I first got the location and then I went and measured the other water towers that are on the roof because I wanted to make mine the in-between size. I didn’t want it to be dominant, and I didn’t want it to be diminutive, either… so that became the standard. The sizes of water towers are based on the building’s water consumption in one day. So depending on what building it is, they are all different sizes and shapes. That’s why I wanted to make mine a basic, standard size and shape.
Your work is more or less outdoor-focused, and it has been received extremely well by the public. How are you going to translate that in a gallery setting for your upcoming show at Mike Weiss Gallery?
One thing that we are playing with for this show is to bring the outdoors in. People want to get close to the work, and then want to have that relationship where you can go up to it to see it and feel the size. The best view is really from the Manhattan Bridge when you are two football fields away. So for this show, I wanted to bring that experience for the viewer with this other piece the will be in the show. It’s a billboard concept that I imagined for Los Angeles originally, and it’s all a part of the Icon Series. If New York gets a water tower, LA can get a billboard and Detroit can get a smoke stack.
For inquiries and more information about the artist, click HERE.