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Steel Resolve: Sculptor Jon Koehler Forges Dreams

We seem to be living in an age of deceptive artistry—curated digital personas, filters that can make a person appear a different age or gender, cakes that look like mundane objects. The fascination with illusion, the familiar masquerading as the unexpected, is not necessarily novel; the technique of trompe l'oeil, French for “trick of the eye,” has captivated people for centuries. Imagination is key, from both the creator and the audience; the former needs it to execute, while the latter needs it to engage. There is a dialogue between creativity and perception, where the boundaries between reality and artifice blur in a spectacle of the senses.

Dream Totem, 2023 | Polished Stainless Steel and Marble Base | 114 x 18 x 12 inches

Enter luminary sculpture artist Jon Koehler, who transforms stainless steel into enchanting, balloon-like forms. The self-taught San Diego native has forged his practice over the last four decades to push the boundaries of steel sculpture, creating dynamic pieces that subvert all expectations of the medium. Koehler's work sits at the intersection of tradition and innovation, drawing inspiration from the great masters of sculpture and structure—Alexander Calder's kinetic mobiles, Fletcher Benton's balance of shapes, Giacometti's slender and “out of proportion” figures, and Da Vinci's masterful engineering. These influences resonate in his work, guiding him forward while instilling humility and a burning desire to create.​​ At the heart of Koehler's latest series lies an ambition to create space for viewers to reflect and draw out narratives from the intriguing forms he crafts from steel.

Triad, 2023 | Polished Stainless Steel and Marble Base | 47 x 22 x 11 inches

Koehler—who this year signed on for exclusive representation through Avant Gallery and will make his Miami Art Week debut at the gallery’s booth at Art Miami art fair—continually strives to push the limits of steel sculpture. His most recent evolution introduces letters resembling mylar balloons, arranged vertically as totems, bearing messages that are unfailingly positive, motivating, and uplifting. The pinnacle of Koehler’s new body of work, a text-based sculpture entitled Dream Totem, offers an immersive encounter, challenging the viewer’s perspective and underscoring a whimsical approach to a rigid medium. The gravity-defying tower of letters is finished with mirrored surfaces that morph and refract with every subtle movement, and casts a shadow that reinforces this call to action: Dream. Koehler sees his art as a medium for inspiration, reflecting his aspiration to spread positivity.

Prismatica, 2023 | Polished Stainless Steel, Translucent Paint, and Marble Base | 68 x 20 x 21 inches

A self-described observer and experimenter, Koehler's artistic process is an act of co-creation, allowing the sculpture to materialize through him; a synergy of intention and spontaneity. In the world of metalworking, he stands at the forefront of innovation, employing a cutting-edge method of “laser welding” to hold pressures ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 psi. The true magic, Koehler notes, unfolds above 1,500 psi, revealing the stainless steel's transformation into captivating convex and concave shapes. Works such as Prismatica exemplify this moment of magic, the inflated curved forms subvert how steel is expected to behave. Koehler recently began incorporating translucent paint, further transforming the steel shapes, adding an aura of flair, playfulness, and imagination.

Adulate, 2022 | Polished Stainless Steel and Marble Base | 76 x 22 x 18 inches

Koehler’s ingenuity and willingness to experiment can be traced back to his upbringing immersed in his family’s boat building business. The meticulous processes he was exposed to from a young age, from constructing tools and fixtures to crafting unusual shapes, laid the foundation for his artistic endeavors. Welding and metalworking—skills Koehler demonstrated an early affinity for and honed in the boatyard—became the precursor to his current mastery of shaping stainless steel into unexpected forms. Koehler finds inspiration not only in his own past, but in his surroundings as well; nature in particular serves as his boundless wellspring. Fascinated by the harmony of forms dictated by the principles of Fibonacci, he incorporates these proportions into his work, seeking to achieve effortless balance. As a self-taught artist, Koehler emphasizes the importance of allowing the creation to manifest itself, welcoming unexpected discoveries that arise from the intentional act of letting go. In a society saturated with spectacle, Jon Koehler's work beckons us to engage in a deeper, more meaningful exploration of art and the limitless possibilities that lie beyond the surface.

Circulaire, 2023 | Polished and Etched Stainless Steel, Translucent Paint, Marble Base | 40 x 11 x 8 inches

Discover Jon Koehler’s work at:

Avant Gallery Miami, Brickell City Centre, North Block, Level 1

Avant Gallery + Home, Aventura Mall, Level 1

By ML staff. Images courtesy of Avant Gallery


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