Caro Elegy

James Lesko
Caro Elegy
12 inches high x 20 inches wide x 15 inches deep

Welded hot rolled steel and paint
Clear polyurethane coat protection

Created at Pratt Studios, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY

Exhibited: Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY. Works by James Lesko, 1995
New York Institute of Technology, Westbury, NY. Works by James Lesko, 1995
Riverside Gallery, Hackensack, NJ. Works by James Lesko, 2015.

About the Artist

Lesko writes, “I was always jealous that Caro (Anthony Caro, British sculptor 1924-2013) inherited leadership of modernist sculpture after the death of David Smith. I felt that I-beams were too dominant as a form and would overwhelm a piece. Then I realized that that was his (Caro’s) intention – to arrange unrelated forms in an awkward non-classical structure, often barely holding together as an idea. With this realization, I understood that he did deserve recognition for his brilliant new ideas of form. I was fortunate to meet him and now honor him in my own way, using an I-beam in his memory.”

With his steel sculptures Lesko’s life comes full circle. Lesko was born and raised in Winber, Pennsylvania, a small coal mining town in the Allegheny Mountains. He later moved to Pittsburgh and attended Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). Pittsburgh is a steel town and the Carnegies, founders and benefactors of the university, made their fortune in steel. Coal and iron ore are chemically combined to create steel. So, in a sense, creating steel sculptures is, on many levels, in Lesko’s blood.

At the end of the 1950’s Lesko recalls that traveling past the steel mills on his way to his art classes at Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT) fired his imagination and began his love affair with steel and the violent process used to make it. He began creating sculptures from steel scrap. Around this time, Lesko also became interested in Industrial Design. Many former Bauhaus members were on the faculty including Josef Albers, Walter Gropius and Sibyl Maholy-Nagy.

Lesko’s education was interrupted by a three-year stint in the US Army. By 1963, he was back at CIT and by 1965 after receiving his BFA, Lesko started work at the Corporate Design Center, Westinghouse Electric Corporation as an Industrial Designer. It was a heady time with design legends Charles Eames, Buckminster Fuller and Eliot Noyes consulting and lecturing there. Jim’s most important project during his Westinghouse years was the Tampa Airport Transit Vehicle which continues to operate to this day.

After receiving his MA at Carnegie Mellon, Lesko began his teaching career in the Industrial Design Program at Purdue University. He went on work in the Industrial Design program at the University of Cincinnati and then at Pratt Institute in New York City. More recently Lesko served as the Head of Art & Design at University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, CT. Now retired, Lesko spends his time painting, printmaking and sculpting while listening to classical music, his other passion.

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