About The Artwork
One of two kinetic sculptures in the Padnos Collection by Chicago artist George J. Kafka, this untitled work consists of an arc and base made entirely from welded stainless steel cubes. Kafka, whose art training took a decidedly unconventional route, worked in brass, aluminum, stainless steel, copper and titanium, as well as precious metals such as platinum, gold, and silver. Like many skilled Depression-era workers he found employment in the late 1930s as a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps, where he learned to weld. During a career spent as a welder at U.S. Steel, Ford Aircraft and Argonne National Laboratories, Kafka began to create artwork in his spare time. New techniques learned on the job, such as heliarc welding — which allows for the bonding together of two extremely hard metals — translated into a wider range of methods for making art. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune during the mid-1980s, just after he created the sculptures in this exhibition, Kafka explained the synchronicity of his day job and his avocation: “What I learned at work helped in my art. What I learned from my art helped me at work.” Balanced perfectly on a base that is also an element of the work, this sculpture melds industrial techniques with aesthetic concerns.
Assistant Professor, Frederik Meijer Honors College, Grand Valley State University