Finessing an Aesthetic

While he was finishing up his student work at Davis, Walburg was already constructing large steel pieces. Drawing on his drafting, welding, and industrial/mechanical background, he worked intensively on Opposing Soft Loops for three months; the consummate craftsman, he cleverly designed it to circumvent the limitations imposed by the physicality of the materials and the process, and to conceal the numerous welds. Juxtaposed with its physical monumentality and the impact of the dark steel was the paradoxical impression of suppleness of the loops, curving into sensuous arcs that eased horizontally into a breath of restrained potency.

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At the same time Walburg had been continuing to work in clay, creating a series of untitled stoneware “pots” that featured slumping sectional divisions. The organic, somewhat lumpy surface and indistinct lips of these vertical containers was more a connection to the clay vessels of several years earlier than to the precise metal work he was concomitantly fabricating.

Earlier he and his wife Jean had discussed moving to New York after he completed graduate school. Although it seemed like the most “obvious thing to do” for Walburg, Jean was not convinced, and, when she became pregnant with son Aaron, the idea of moving to New York was abandoned. So, instead of heading to New York following his graduation, Walburg started teaching full time. He attended classes at Cal while he worked full time at City College.

Screen shot 2014-06-22 at 3.34.52 PMWhile he was teaching he had discovered black chrome the same way he had found out about Cor-ten, at the construction/architectural trade fairs that he attended with his students. City College did not have appropriate facilities for large scale metal work, and his personal studio was in the garage outside of his home, so he had to defer the production of additional monumental sculpture and instead focus on pieces that he could manage within the restrictive parameters of his existing studio options.

Elegant, geometric, and quintessentially contemporary, these works brought him significant attention not only due to their innovative use of materials, but because of their conceptual and physical experimentation with illusion, revisiting the conceptual avenue he had explored in the free-standing mixed-media floor pieces and the plastic wall-mounted works of 1965-67.

Screen-shot-335Walburg considers himself a minimalist, although these inclinations do not always surface in his work. However, in searing contrast to the form-dominated Minimalist canon, Walburg invested these works with significant content as well. While he was still in the initial stages of exploring variants of these series, he was offered a full-time teaching position at California State University-Sacramento (commonly known as Sac State). He quit at City and moved over to State, with their much larger and better endowed facilities; he continued teaching there for 36 more years. Other professors hired that same year were Jim Nutt and William Geis.