Bending Steel: The Art of Matt Horick

By Hannah Witner

2015 Summer Affiliate Artist Matt Horick creates otherworldly volumetric masterpieces from circular-cut, rolled, and malleted sheet metal pieces. They are transformed, through various welding processes, from their puzzle-piece-like beginnings to voluptuous forms that are full of both simplicity and complexity all in one. 

Matt Horick, #1, 2013 (27" x 27" x 7”, steel; from the Tectonics series)

Horick’s Tectonic series is based on the limits of materials, steel specifically. He crafts them beautifully by harmoniously crossing color, tension, and proportion. 

Matt Horick, Jovius, 2014 (38" x 38" x 38”, steel; from the Tectonics series)

Horick recently earned his BFA from Winthrop University. We were able to get inside his head with a few questions.

McColl Center: How did you start creating art?

Matt Horick: I started off studying science in college, but I had to take an elective and my dad suggested taking a photography class. I’ve always liked to create things, but never thought anything of it; and through the course of my time in college I kind of figured my way into loving it. 

What drew you to sculpture and working with steel?

I was terrified of power tools growing up, so it’s funny to me that this is what I’m doing now. It just so happened that Shaun Cassidy [sculptor, Winthrop University professor, and McColl Center alumnus artist] needed an assistant, so I started working with steel for him and got a lot of practice.

What is most inspiring to you and why?

Small random things that you look at that are interesting. Biology is always intriguing to me, and so is the ‘form follows function’ idea. Somehow, through my head, ideas get mixed together, but it’s never an immediate look at something that makes me able to see the end result. 

Could you describe your process as you work out your initial ideas? How do you get started?

Much of my sculpture starts off as two circles that are saw-cut out of sheet steel. Then I just roll them into cones or folded circles, kind of as if they were paper. That’s the limitation that I work with, and that I use for the main two sides [of the forms]. You can fold it and roll it but you can’t bend it in two directions without stretching it. So they’re basically cylinders: one side is a circle and the other is a circle and the middle is wrapped according to the profiles of those two circles.

Four views of a work in progress by Matt Horick

Do you have any visions of how the sculptures will progress?

Ideally I’d like to make a few of them very big. I guess that’s kind of the natural thinking in sculpture. While I’m here [in residency at McColl Center], I’m working on the biggest one that I’ve made so far. It’s going to be around eight or nine feet tall and 2 or 3 feet wide. 

How is this new piece coming together?

I designed this piece in CAD, and I’m taking measurements from the computer and projecting them on the wall to trace and cut them out of steel. I also have a small 3D model of it I keep on my work cart with me. Anything thicker than the steel sheets I’m working with now is difficult to work with and lift by yourself. Thinner sheets are easier to form, but it's harder for it to keep that form as the scale increases. It also warps really easily with heat. Mistakes and inconsistencies show up way worse. So that’s kind of what gets me into feeling like I’m spinning my wheels sometimes; something that just totally throws me off. 

Five views of a work in progress by Matt Horick

Who is your favorite artist right now?

Richard Deacon is pretty fantastic. He did a lot of abstract organic sculptures with basic materials like sheet metal and laminated wood. He’s all about material, like a love letter to process. Anish Kapoor is also great. He’s the one who did the Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago

A big influence on me has been Harley Earl, a designer in the auto industry in the 40s and 50s. Any time I had to do a report in school I usually did it on Harley Earl. His streamline aesthetic influenced my work without me even realizing it until recently.

How has McColl Center allowed your work to thrive?

I don't have my own studio or work space, so it is really awesome having a large workshop with things like nice big tables and a crane here at McColl Center. It’s comfortable working here. I’ve worked doing fabrication for them for the past year or year and a half, on and off, so I already know my way around the shop. The space feels familiar and it’s just a super cool place to be.