Completion of the first building in the first phase of the Twinbrook Station development in Rockville was marked Thursday by the installation of two sculptures by a world-renowned artist.
The metal sculptures are part of an ongoing series of sculptures that artist Howard McCalebb has been working on since 2002.
"He really is very squarely in the movement of abstract art in the 70s and 80s," said Anthony Greenberg, an associate with developer JBG Companies of Chevy Chase. "But his work is still relevant in a contemporary way."
McCalebb's sculptures are made from large steel pieces and weigh approximately 1,000 pounds each. Each piece is unique and only produced once on a particular scale. The red sculpture called "Butterfly" is 10 feet high and the yellow sculpture "Cat's Tail" is 6 feet high. A crane placed the sculptures in designated spots outside the Alaire, a 279-unit apartment complex.
"It's a rare art form," said Christian Siekmeier, owner of Exile, an art gallery in Berlin, Germany, where McCalebb had originally featured his works. "No one's really doing this kind of art right now. It's very bold and graphic. There's a play of color and shape."
McCalebb, 63, is originally from San Jose, Calif. He lives in California and Berlin.
His sculptures have been featured in Germany, China, Poland, Norway, United Arab Emirates and many other global destinations in addition to several galleries and museums in the United States. McCalebb has also taught art at several universities and spent 28 years on the art scene in New York City.
Twinbrook Station is a new mixed-used development adjacent to the Twinbrook Metro Station. JBG, in conjunction with Metro officials, have been working since 2000 to convert the 26-acre site of former warehouses and parking spaces into a residential community and shopping district.
Greenberg said JBG wanted to host "a world-class collection of sculptures that are really relevant and contemporary" for future residents and visitors of Twinbrook.
Greenberg said JBG Companies started the search for artists last summer, and got in contact with Siekmeier and McCalebb through an art curator in New York. A show featuring McCalebb's original metal sculptures and models had just closed at Siekmeier's gallery in Berlin.
"It was very serendipitous," McCalebb said.
JBG commissioned McCalebb to create two outdoor sculptures for the first phase of the Twinbrook Station project.
Greenberg said the total cost for commissioning both sculptures, including costs for engineering, lights, signage, installation, foundation, consulting services and the artwork was $110,000.
During the design stage of the sculptures, McCalebb sketched out models using a technique called the golden principle or rectangle, which involved dividing a rectangle into a square and a smaller rectangle whose sides remain consistently proportional to one another when reshaped.
"With the golden rectangle, I create a matrix and play with it to find different shapes," McCalebb said. "It's very mathematical."
Next, McCalebb created 8-inch-tall miniature models of his sculptures.
"Then they progress through mechanical drawings, and the opportunity arises to make a big one," McCalebb said. "I create a scale that relates to the actual site."
When designing the models, McCalebb took into consideration the site dimensions and surrounding landscape. For instance, the first "Butterfly" sculpture featured in Berlin was yellow and 6 feet tall. But McCalebb redesigned the sculpture so the color and size matched the color and shape of the apartment building.
"Everything should be in proportion relative to the human body and its proper relationship to the buildings," he said. "Everything should be comfortable."
McCalebb and Siekmeier flew from Berlin to view the site and meet the contractors and construction workers in January. Elemental Metalworks in Baltimore took McCalebb's sketches and created and assembled pieces of the metal sculptures in less than two months. The pieces were sent to another facility for custom powder coating to preserve the paint in March.
His sculptures, like many other art forms, should be viewed subjectively, McCalebb said.
"I don't believe in prescribing experience," he said. "A person has to come to it from their own experience and comfort level and enjoy looking at it."
Twinbrook Station is being developed in six phases.
Greenberg said JBG will continue searching for artists to commission. Local artists are also being considered in the pool of applicants, he said
"We are looking for all-American artists regardless of where their studio is," he said. "Each phase stands alone. Each phase will have a different artist's work displayed."
In addition to the Alaire apartments, the first phase will include 15,500 square feet of retail space.
The completed project will have 1,595 apartments and condominiums, 220,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and 325,000 square feet of office space.
"We hope the city appreciates this project and will come out to see this installation," Greenberg said.