The Oakland artist takes urban detritus with a former life and makes it something anew through artistic detour.
Working out of the old American Steel building in West Oakland, sculptor Andrew Miguel Fuller has lots of space to explore his craft. The Mandela Parkway warehouse dominates the entire block from 18th to 20th streets, with multiple indoor cranes and several roadways through the building. The space, which he shares with a welder, affords him the opportunity to utilize a range of materials, including metals and minerals, fiberglass resin, copper and steel wire, granite, and concrete along with found objects. His work encompasses public art installations, assemblages, fabrications, and what he calls “aggregates and accretions.” Sculptures are both figurative and nonfigurative representations that vary in visual association, and the contrast can appear broad, as in his piece Eyes Are the Window vis-à-vis Rapture in West Texas, for example. The former is an expressive bust made of bottle caps and copper wire while the latter is a collaborative, abstract installation combining straw bales and steel and brass wire with television monitors. The common thread is in the taking of urban detritus that had a former life and giving it new definition by way of artistic detour.
Born in Quito, Ecuador, to two American Peace Corps volunteers who met while on assignment, Fuller has also lived in Paraguay, Washington, D.C., and the desert suburbs of Los Angeles. Fuller came to the Bay Area in 2005 to follow a degree in society and environment at UC Berkeley, a course of study that examines how social and environmental problems are deeply intertwined and how people negotiate the shared environment at local and international levels. His sculptures echo his studies “by creating an ongoing conversation with the ticky-tacky flotsam of urban Americana,” Fuller said. “I tend to think of my work as a kind of psychic mirror. I’m guided by the belief that everything the human hand or mind touches bears the mark of its contact and, through that, becomes a partial reflection of us.” In his work, Fuller said he hopes to affect the way people interact with the world by encouraging a subtle shift in what viewers expect from the mundane, nearly invisible parts of it.
The Oakland artist takes urban detritus with a former life and turns it into something anew in art.
On becoming an artist, Fuller said he distinctly remembers family trips to Smithsonian Institution museums and seeing Rodin sculptures at the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden that he couldn’t get enough of. But it was stumbling onto a sculpture by Bay Area kinetic sculptor and zoetrope-artist Peter Hudson that really struck a chord. After an introduction through a friend, Fuller started an apprenticeship program with Hudson, acting as foreman on traveling installations through Europe and California 2008-2014. “It was through working for Hudson that I started testing the waters for my own work and eventually set up my own independent studio,” Fuller said. He also cited Manuel Neri, Martin Puryear, and the late Berkeley artist Stephen De Staebler as influences. Regarding De Staebler, Fuller said, “The way his figures seem to always be crumbling and still exude a sense of vitality is deeply inspirational.”
In his studio, each project involves an intensive period of thought before sculpting from clay then tenaciously working and reworking a form as a visual puzzle. He then develops a specialized cast to work from and begins repetitive assembly welding. He spends the average day stooped over a table, lining up little pieces of bronze, aluminum, steel, and so on and welding them together, a quarter inch at a time. “You can always count on me to find the most labor-intensive way of doing anything,” Fuller said.
Fuller is also part of a small collective of artists/curators called the Strawman Collective that present community performances and exhibitions. The collective recently organized a wandering pop-up gallery event inviting artists to display work or perform on a 9-foot-tall bale of hay in different locations around the Bay Area. An exhibit catalog for this event is in the works. And after receiving a grant from the San Francisco Awesome Foundation, the group developed a 10-part performance called Ice on Ice: An Ice Capade!, which will be presented at the Oakland Ice Center on Friday, Jan. 4.
Fuller has completed commissions for private and public installations and has exhibited regularly around the Bay Area since 2010. He received an artist-in-residency fellowship from the Alchemy Art Center in Friday Harbor, Wash., for 2018 and is currently a member of Mercury 20 gallery in Oakland. For more information, visit his website, AMFuller.com.