ARTIST BOB ZOELL – San Francisco Arts Commission Installs New Works at SF International Airport

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Director of Cultural Affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) Luis R. Cancel is pleased to announce the installation of “BFILRYD” (Bird + FLY), a new public artwork by acclaimed abstract painter Bob Zoell at San Francisco International Airport. A regular contributor to The New Yorker, Zoell has created seven iconic covers and has lectured and participated in exhibitions at prestigious contemporary art institutions around the world.  Combining his lifelong passion for language and birds, Zoell transforms the secure connector between Terminal 3 and International Terminal Boarding Area G into a playful, idyllic world of singing birds sitting on branches composed from letters and punctuation marks. The top and bottom frosted glass panels feature airplanes and typography, rendered in a simplified graphic style. According to the artist, “The letters and punctuation marks create a curious code of abstract icons that become a poetic statement. These happy marks, I feel, create a delightful and positive Airport environment for all ages.”

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BOB ZOELL. “BFILRYD” (Bird + FLY).
Photos, Bruce Damonte

Combining his lifelong passion for language and birds, Bob Zoell transforms the secure connector between Terminal 3 and International Terminal Boarding Area G into a playful, idyllic world of singing birds sitting on branches composed from letters and punctuation marks. The top and bottom frosted glass panels feature airplanes and typography, rendered in a simplified graphic style. According to the artist, “The letters and punctuation marks create a curious code of abstract icons that become a poetic statement. These happy marks, I feel, create a delightful and positive Airport environment for all ages.”

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“Bob Zoell has designed a vibrant and delightful installation for SFO,” said Mr. Cancel. “This project is an excellent example of the Public Art Program’s expertise at working with artists who traditionally work in two-dimensional media to create lasting and iconic public artworks. It’s wonderful to see the work of this well-established abstract painter transformed into a complete environment that will be enjoyed by thousands of people.”

Three types of glass techniques were employed in the creation of “BFILRYD”. The central series of panels, decorated with primary colored birds, were fabricated using a specific float glass technique and manufactured in Germany by Franz Mayer of Munich, Inc. In order to reproduce the images of birds and twigs, Zoell’s paintings were converted into digital files, which were used to produce masks, or stencils of each image. The masks were cut by a computer stylus in preparation for the hand-airbrushing of ceramic glass  melting colors, composed of powdered glass and pigments, onto the large glass pane. After application, the pane was taken to a large kiln and fired at a temperature hot enough to cause the pigment to melt, around 1150˚F, and adhere firmly and permanently to the glass pane. Frosted glass was used for the small panels depicting airplanes in different stages of flight. This technique involves sandblasting clear sheets of glass so that it has a soft, slightly-opaque finish. The third technique, which was used for the black and white panels, involves laminating a photographic interlayer between two pieces of glass.

About the Artist
Born in Regina, Canada in 1940, Zoell’s artistic career began in his father’s small printing shop where at the early age of 12 he would set type and make litho plates of his art after school. This work instilled a life-long love of language and letters, which later became a dominating theme in his graphic and fine art career.

In the late 50s and early 60s, after leaving school, Zoell worked at various commercial art-related jobs including a sign shop, an outdoor advertising firm, a publishing house and a design studio. In 1962, the artist left his native Calgary with his family and resettled in sunny Los Angeles where he was offered an Art Director position with Saul Bass and Associates. In 1970, Zoell rented a loft space with the intent of investigating painting. According to Zoell, “After exhausting what few freedoms illustration offered, I became aware of Reductive and Abstract art by artists such as Malevich, Pollack, Newman, et al. I felt a need to investigate this new territory. In my studio, I explored the formal rectangle in my paintings and a whole new direction that offered new challenges.”

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BOB ZOELL. New Yorker Cover – 12/11/2000

In the late 80s he joined Ace Gallery, a vanguard contemporary art space in Los Angeles, and developed a series of large “spot” paintings. “I would locate a spot on a field and mark it to celebrate that decision,” said Zoell. “This cool and disciplined approach usually ended up mocking itself.” Zoell’s focus on reductive thinking led him to the realization that he could apply the tenets of minimalism to language. While he had always used language in his work, he expanded his imagery to fragments and punctuation marks.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, Zoell traveled around the world showing his art at such institutions as Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona, Spain; PS 122, New York City; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France and the Los Angeles County Museum. Among his many accomplishments are prestigious grants from the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation and the Pollack-Krasner Foundation, respectively. He also served as a visiting faculty member at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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