THE CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN ARTIST AND SCULPTOR HAS EXPERIMENTED WITH A VARIETY OF STYLES FROM THE SIMPLICITY OF STRONG, ANGULAR LINES AND PLANES TO MORE GRACEFUL RENDITIONS OF THE NATURAL WORLD AND HUMAN FIGURE, INCLUDING IMPROVISATIONAL ELEMENTS OF AMERICAN JAZZ MUSICIANS AND NATIVE AMERICAN CHIEFS.
By Linda Marx
For many artists, talent develops at a young age. Sculptor of monumental work, John Raimondi is no exception. At age seven, the Chelsea-born, East Boston, Massachusetts-raised artist built model cars and airplanes without the use of instructions. He painted and imagined that he could drive and fly these models. After three years, he advanced to larger airplanes that flew on hand held wires.
“Eventually, I built full size hot rods during my spare time as a high school student,” Raimondi remembers. “I knew I would have a career in art; I even painted the yearbook cover. I thought I would become a seascape painter.”
While living in waterfront Rockport, Massachusetts, he built a portfolio. When he was accepted into the Maine College of Art, he met a sculpture teacher who told him, “you draw like a sculptor!” and a career was born.
Raimondi, now 68, and living in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, with his toy Poodle-Pomeranian mix Skitty, has created more than 100 works of outdoor monumental sculpture in his 45-year career. The soaring organic metal sculptures with geometric forms have become part of impressive collections in museums, universities, airports and private locations around the world. Raimondi is also a certified welder.
Before his work becomes towering metal sculptures, Raimondi’s ideas are created as abstract and representational drawings in ink, pastel, graphite and oil stick.
“Drawing is one of the most profound and intimate methods of communication,” says the artist. “I draw to find the sculpture inside me. Once I make the final drawing, I rarely draw again; until the next sculpture begins to evolve in my mind and my heart. Sometimes the evolutionary drawings become cathartic—I need to get the previous sculpture out of my system, both intellectually and emotionally, before I can start a new one. Until then, the drawings and sculpture live inside me. I dream about them…”
Recently, Raimondi was honored with a three-city exhibition of his drawings that opened in Boca Raton, Florida, last winter. The show, named “John Raimondi: Drawing to Sculpture,” was held at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. It then traveled to Ocala, Florida’s Appleton Museum of Art at the College of Central Florida (August 6—October 30), and will conclude at the San Angelo, Museum of Fine Arts, Texas (December 9—February 5, 2017).
“John Raimondi is one of America’s finest living sculptors and artists,” Irvin Lippman, Executive Director of the Boca Raton Museum of Art, wrote in an illustrated companion book to the year- long traveling show. “As part of his process, he creates many drawings to realize his ideas for his monumental sculptures. None of the drawings, however, are the exacting structural drawing one would expect for those twisting metal sculptures that soar so high in the air.”
Raimondi’s career as a sculptor began in 1971 while he was a student at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. His first monumental piece, Cage, measured 18 feet tall and was made of Cor-ten steel. Four years later, his world opened wider with a grand commission for the Interstate 80 Bi-Centennial sculpture project in Nebraska. He went on to win every major sculpture competition that took place in the state for over a decade.
There was 26 foot tall “Erma’s Desire” named for his mother (1976) made of Cor-ten steel, for a rest park on a Nebraska Interstate, the 60 foot tall “Dance of the Cranes” (1988), for Omaha International Airport and 29 foot tall “Athleta” (1989), for the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Athletic Center. “While I was building ‘Dance of the Cranes’, PBS-TV did a documentary of me during the process,” says Raimondi.
Henry Adams, Ruth Heede Professor of Art History at Case Western Reserve University, described “Dance of the Cranes” in Raimondi’s book, “Drawing to Sculpture”: “The work is a celebration not only of the Sandhill crane and its millions of years of connection with the Nebraska landscape, but also the many Indian nations that have honored the crane over the millennia.”
Raimondi created other major sculptures such as the 38 foot tall “Aquila” (1981), for Bank of America in Miami, Florida, the 40 foot tall “Lupus’ (1985), for Lotus Development Corp. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the 41 foot tall “Artorius” (1990), for Stockley Park, Heathrow in Uxbridge, England.
MOVING TO PALM BEACH
Busy and ambitious, Raimondi moved to Palm Beach, Florida. He liked the paradise of golden sandcastles where wealthy residents needed art to fill out their massive gardens. He was smitten with the light on the island, the area’s proximity to New York City, Boston and Chicago, and the cosmopolitan denizens who wintered there. The sculptor spends most days working in his home studio. “I don’t get up early because I often work late at night,” he says. “I read the ‘New York Times’ each morning, do my telephone business, then head for the studio and wear earphones to block out all distraction when I create art.”
He breaks for lunch, calls his framer, friends and dealer, then works a few more hours before practicing transcendental meditation (which he has been doing for 48 years), hosting a dinner party, or dining out with clients who have become friends.
His next commission is a three-sculpture project from Centrum Partners, a Chicago developer, who will install them in the Windy City. One piece will be a jazz sculpture based on the celebrated musician Billie Holiday, for River North, 412 North Wells Street, across from the Merchandise Mart. Another sculpture is for an elementary school, and a third is planned for a mixed use real estate project.
With such a full plate, life is good for Raimondi, an artist who has been successful on many levels.