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While some artists bring in their work and leave it, others become interested in the process itself. According to Polich, one artist who became passionately involved was Nancy Graves. Graves, he says, "was really interested in the transformative powers of the process, where we could take a fragile leaf and turn it into something permanent that she could paint, and make colorful, and still make it have the very obvious, strong resemblance to what is was. Before she found us, she was trying to make sculpture, trying to make these fragile things, and it was so frustrating, so difficult."
Another artist intrigued by the process was Frank Stella. "He was always interested in what could be cast, but he was also interested in how [it could be cast]. He was a guy who started using the casting systems, putting those plumbing systems, on them. He said that it was part of making the sculpture. Frank is the only guy that would do that, would really use everything. He never wanted anyone to show him how to do anything. He wanted to learn, or do it himself, with that kind of newness, in the hopes that he might change it, or do it in a way that no one had ever done it before."
The largest casting ever made at the foundry was for Stella—a 75,000-pound abstract, stainless-steel artwork commissioned by the Pohang Steel Company in Seoul, Korea. Some of the smallest have been made for Rona Pondick, who employs computer scanning to create different-sized replicas of her head and other body parts. Polich remembers the foundry casting a real tree and welding tiny heads to it, so that when a viewer saw the work from a distance, the objects resembled real fruit, "but then when you get close, you realize it's a portrait."
Pondick has taken her work to Polich Art Works for almost a decade because, she says, "It's one of the few foundries where all of the people on the floor take tremendous pride in their work. I feel like I'm working with the top people in the business. Someone like Jerry Tobin is just amazing. There isn't a piece of mine that doesn't go through him."
Of Dick Polich, she says, "I love to push the envelope, and Dick's not afraid to push the envelope. At most foundries, if they don't understand the work, they run away from it. Dick is challenged by it."
Polich seems to embrace all kinds of challenges, not the least of which involve maintaining a clear vision of the company's past and future. In 1990, when the number of foundry workers reached almost 200, Polich sold Tallix to an outfit that was intent on creating an "art conglomerate," a concept that Polich recognized, in hindsight, to be an oxymoron.
At first, as president of the new international company, overseeing foundries in the US and England, Polich was excited and energized. Then the market changed, and the "money guys" and artisans had different ideas on how to conduct business.
Polich left Tallix in 1995 and, soon after, opened Polich Art Works in a former metal fabricating plant near the airport. In late October, Polich and Tallix officially reunited. The Tallix foundry in Beacon will close, and Polich Tallix will reside under one roof.
According to Polich, between 60 and 70 percent of the castings made by the company are bronze, with the balance constituting stainless steel, aluminum, silver, and gold. Although the industry has shrunk somewhat, partly due to work being outsourced to Asia, Polich sees the market for larger architectural work growing, now that designers can use the computer to design increasingly complex structures, including entire buildings. Polich hopes that the newly combined foundry will do between $6 and 10 million dollars in business in the coming year.