Carl Floyd, Sculptor
1989 CLEVELAND ARTS PRIZE FOR VISUAL ARTS
Carl Floyd is known mostly for environmentally appropriate scuptures meant to be used
and admired by the general public. His works are architectonic in
character and dominate a site as only architecture can. This is not
surprising in the case of an artist who was trained in engineering and
Born in Somerset, Kentucky, Floyd studied architecture at Utah State University from 1959–1961
and at the University of California at Berkeley. He earned a B.F.A.
from Kansas State University in 1964 and an M.F.A. from Cranbrook
Academy in 1967. From his student days onward he exhibited in
various parts of the country and had his first one-man show in
1970. He taught at the University of the Kentucky College of
Architecture before coming to Cleveland in 1971 to teach in the
sculpture department of the Cleveland Institute of Art. Floyd became
chairman of the department in 1985 and retired from the Institute in
1998. He has lived in Alabama since 2002.
Floyd’s sculptures of the 1960s and 1970s were often influenced by the
strong, masculine forms of the machine. Although not working
machines themselves, in their juxtaposition of cylinders, wheels, hooks
and blocks they exert the feeling of a working, precision
instrument. His large outdoor sculptures, such as Black Environment,
feature giant interlocking jigsaw forms pulled apart like open doors.
Machines and their parts always fascinated Floyd, who kept a collection
of machine parts that influenced him in his sculptural pursuits. A few
of his first outdoor sculpture pieces for parks and his proposals for
outdoor environments suggest the unsettling feel of gun
encampments. The hand of the maker, however, was always hidden beneath the beauty of the polished stone or metal.
Cleveland, Carl Floyd enlarged his repertoire of site-specific
sculptures with numerous commissions in various neighborhood parks. He
often incorporated tiles done by children that are set on massive stone
monoliths that reflect the brutalism so prevalent in the architecture
of the 1970s. Floyd’s large outdoor sculptures from the 1970s and 1980
typicallyencompass a large environment and allow room for outdoor activities.
Usually composed of multiple components, these installations are
structured to allow visitors to walk through and around them,
experiencing them from many different perspectives.
cites a sculptor and an architect, Rodin and Le Corbusier, as major
influences on his work; but
unlike his illustrious predecessors, he has followed interests that go
beyond the sculptural and
architectural. Always an issue-oriented artist, Floyd seeks to focus
awareness on the vulnerability of the environment in the modern world.
In some of his drawings and proposals, simplified trees in cut-out form
abound and proliferate. Floyd’s favorite work, an impressive
installation created at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1991,
depicts a white, ghostly forest. Stark in its purity and fragility, it
poignantly suggests the vulnerability of nature to the ravenous
consumerism of humankind. It may be, in part, his growing anxiety
over the fate of the planet that has led Floyd in some of his most
recent work, still focused on ecology, to create installations that are
massive in scale, weighing as much as half a ton and extending over 50
or 100 acres.
—Diane De Grazia
All photos courtesy of the artist.