Anticipation swells for art display at new Hotel InterContinental

Unveiling a series of public works from local artist Chris Puzio and Laguna Beach artist Roark Gourley, Hotel InterContinental and the Port of San Diego Waterfront Arts & Activation department host Liquid Light from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

Onlookers will be delighted with Puzio’s large-scale sculptural series, entitled Groundswell and Gourley’s work as a participant in the Port’s “tenant percent for art” program, which will be projected on a 17-foot high and 144-foot wide facade of the hotel near the corner of Broadway and Pacific Coast Highway. The art-filled evening will also feature live music, cocktails by Vistal, and nibbles from Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse.

Ahead of the event, PACIFIC spoke with Puzio about his sculptures, the artistic inspiration behind Groundswell, and his advice to rising young artists.

PACIFIC: How did large scale sculpture become your medium?

CHRIS PUZIO: I’ve always been drawn to it. I was taking sculpture classes and welding in college. It’s been a long road, and it took many years to build up the different skills to work at this scale. I feel most comfortable working with a bigger scale. And I like the public nature of it; they are outdoors and experienced by everybody.

Who do you consider your greatest artistic influences?

In contemporary art, Mark Di Suvero and the playfulness and freedom he brings to his work. Tony Smith — I’ve always liked the way he investigated geometric systems at different scales, like a scientific research project. And (Antoni) Gaudí; I always love Gaudí.

With the scale of your sculptures, do you work on one project at a time?

In the shop (me and my team) usually have two to three large ones a year, and I try to make gallery-size works in between.

How long from idea to finished product, generally?

Usually about a year, the design process on the InterContinental was about a year and then the work was about 10 months.

Your works encompass geometry, science and a little chaos. What’s your ethos?

I think a couple of basic principles are ideas I formed in grade school that I’ve been working on for the past 15 to 16 years. Those things have to do with how metal is produced and fabricated. A lot of the creative methods are an ongoing investigation. For aesthetics, it’s travel and being out in nature, and the historical collection of art and artists that I turn to for inspiration, like Gaudi or Art Nouveau. It’s equal parts how I handle it and natural systems of geometry.

How did Groundswell with the InterContinental come about?

For this project they wanted an artist who could find inspiration from the water and oceans and it fit in with what I was working on at the time. I couldn’t have asked for a better site to do a large public sculpture. What they wanted and what I was doing meshed well together. They trusted me.

What was the idea behind it?

The biggest one is how to dematerialize this large metal structure into something that behaves like liquid, like the ocean — three dimensional sculptural form that speaks to the tide and surf. Then there’s the smaller detail system of how the pieces are created, for instance, how flat rocks at Torrey Pines are encrusted with mussels, how that feels and try to capture that. The smaller piece of the set is about the tides, and how to explore it at full scale. I wanted locals or people visiting to get that feeling of being in the surf at the shores at Tourmaline or Sunset Cliffs. You stand up close and you kind of get that exhilaration.

Your works can be found all over San Diego County, from La Jolla to downtown to Anza Borrego. What are a few of your favorite pieces for readers to go hunt down?

Groundswell, it was the culmination of several things I was working on; Island Harbor near Tom Ham’s Lighthouse; and the La Jolla Dome at La Jolla Crossroads.

What is your advice to young artists working hard out there to be seen and heard?

Speaking from my own experience, you want to be able to meet the world half way and figure out how your work will come into the world and art market. Figuring out how to make a life for yourself as an artist. It’s a huge challenge, but creative gifts and skills, there is a place for it. I work in a specialized way that is born out of my life experiences. The art world has changed so much, and it’s in your hands these days as opposed to a gallery or museum. That’s both a good thing and a challenge.

Liquid Light

When:  5:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 12

Where: 901 Bayfront Ct., downtown (Valet parking at InterContinental San Diego is complimentary for event attendees.)

More info: 619.501.9400 or intercontinentalsandiego.com

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