Local artist and classically trained sculptor, Jonathan Gilbert, has returned to the
production of abstract art using stone tables as his medium.
He is currently designing and fabricating geometric inlaid marble and granite
tabletops which function as both fine art and furniture.
Gilbert hasn't always kept his artwork to just household items. During the 80's
and 90's he designed installations for many museums and galleries.
Having been classically trained by Mustafa Nagiub, in figure, Gilbert began his
stellar career doing portraits busts. After finishing twin busts for the John and
Dorothy Galbreath pavilion in the Ohio Theater. Gilbert received a commission to do
a 40' x123' abstract outdoor piece for Columbus Ohio.
From this point on he focused on abstracting geometric shapes into their most
minimal elements along with conceptual designs. (His work was derivative from Sol
Lowitt, Richard Serra and Duchamp.)
With his experience and understanding of shape and design he now incorporates this
into his fine art furniture utilizing the techniques of his museum installation
"I like the idea of geometric images penetrating and bi-secting other planes. I
like to use the least amount of lines to produce a cube or a two dimensional plane" he says.
Upon walking into his gallery. Which was once a bona fide cotton mill, complete with
walls of exposed brick and floor of hardwood, one can see many examples of the
artist' vast creativity.
On the walls are exemplary examples of Gilbert's figurative nudes. Along the floor
are several of his powerful tables.
One of his creations, a low coffee table, is done in hues of black and cognac with a
feel of a private Zen garden. This would be a supe rb addition to any home.
In a corner sits a whimsical 50's style classroom desk revamped with a Blue Pearl
granite top, with several hues of silver and blue against a dark background.
Gilbert is able to manipulate the granite and marble he uses to create his one of a
kind functional art by drawing on the stone before carving it. He also
incorporates the inclusions and peculiarities of the stone into the design itself.
Once he precise cuts are made, the edges are routed, hand -ground and polished to
perfection, Gilbert slides all of his pieces together to create his composition.
"I look at the pattern movement of the stone," he adds, "and make my cuts based on the stone's harmony. " It can take me more than six months before I begin to cut."
Once the design meets his stringent standards, he usually attaches hand wrought braces so that the pieces cannot shift out of place.
"One needs the marriage of design with technique of craft to create an artwork." He adds.
Speaking of craftsmanship Gilbert only employs local artisans such as Jan Dear and Steve Trulock., when the need arises, for skill when working with wood or wrought Iron.
The artist states, "There is a romance to working in marble but granite is much
harder and wears like iron. But I like to mix them together. Marble is very
delicate and reacts to acid. Italian marble not only makes beautiful tables but in
a finely ground state it makes the antacid Tums."
Marble, as Gilbert explains, has several levels, A through D, which allows the stone
fabricator to know how fragile the stone is that they are cutting. Its level of
fragility does not affect the quality of the stone just its workability. Marble is
denser than granite but less forgiving.
Take for instance, headstones. According to Gilbert, "One can talk about the
longevity of granite by how long it can be read once it is left to the elements. A
typical marble headstone can be read for 200 years where a granite headstone can be
read for 1300 years or more.
Gilbert credits his mother with his transitions into stone working.
"My mother had some windows exchanged leaving a pile of marble sills that she wasn't
using and said to me "You're the sculptor, do something with these," so I did.
He has had the opportunity to work with learn from Fred Hueston at the National
Training Center for Stone and Masonry Trades , where Gilbert teaches Stone
fabrication and restoration.
Since the size and weight of the tables are usually more then most people are
capable of moving themselves, Gilbert ships them anywhere in the U.S.
His tables tend to range up to seven feet in one length and one to six feet wide.
Each piece can weigh 40 to 500 lbs. A lot of his work is commission and he is
always up for a new challenge.
In additions to the tables, Gilbert is creating custom countertops for those people
who s want functional art in their kitchens and baths. This also adds tremendous
value to a house and makes it all the more easily to sell. These countertops
rival his table designs in form and function and will make any kitchen or bath the
focal point of any house, and the conversation of any party.
by Beth Gosset
Used with permission from Rapid River Magazine