Modern Art Foundry
In 1932, John Spring opened an art casting foundry in Queens. He rechristened it as Modern Art Foundry after a 1944 relocation to Astoria. Today, Modern Art Foundry is run in the same location by John’s grandson, Jeffrey Spring. Their primary service is foundry craft and they work directly with sculptors to bring their art to life. Typically, they work with bronze but from time to time, they dabble in non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, zinc, tin or lead on a smaller scale. Jeffrey says that the Foundry works with a variety of pieces, “from 2 inches to 50 feet tall, from abstract to representational”. They’ve collaborated with some of the best artists in the world—from Louis Bourgeois to Lynda Benglis.
Spring mentions that the Foundry also does conservation upkeep in public or private spaces where they “clean and wax sculptures so that they age gracefully.” Modern Art Foundry’s default work setting is to operate cross-functionally; an example of this is their design and casting work for a monument for the International Longshore Association.
Modern Art Foundry isn’t just another casting set-up. Spring mentions that the Foundry is one of the few that does traditional solid investment lost-wax casting in the United States, a technique that’s been practiced for thousands of years. Traditional investment lost-wax casting is the process of creating a block mold using plaster and silica. In the art world today the more common technique is ceramic shell lost wax casting. Modern Art Foundry does both. Traditional investments are cooked in an oven to allow the wax to melt out and mold to cure. Once that is complete the metal is poured into the negative cavity to cast the positive artwork. He insists that this is done to “keep a tradition alive, that could easily fall by the wayside” and in turn, makes them a unique foundry in the United States.
But the Foundry has its feet firmly on the ground: they’re aware of how technology can be a massive catalyst in the art and sculpture sector and how that can affect businesses. Spring adds, “Technology is rapidly changing in the front end of the business. The model creation of 3D scanning, 3D printing definitely has an impact on the art world and the sculpture world… But it’s a very roller coaster industry in terms of cash flow.” In the face of this, he remains optimistic because of how The Foundry occupies a niche space and does bespoke manufacturing with some of the most creative, artistic forces in the world.
At Modern Art Foundry, the dedicated staff, comprising approximately 15 workers, plays a crucial role in the intricate casting process. Each member oversees a specific department, ensuring a seamless workflow. Barbara, for instance, manages the wax room, and Sachika, the patina. The coordination is evident, with departments working in tandem—such as the eight-person team in the metal casting department, where individuals from various sections come together to contribute their skills. The collaborative spirit extends further, with personnel from different departments offering assistance when needed. Nearly 12 out of the 15 members have dedicated over two decades to the foundry, with some, like Mariana, boasting an impressive 43-year tenure. Even the newer additions to the team, spanning from six months to a few years, quickly assimilate into the shared knowledge pool. This dynamic workforce embraces crossover skills, allowing them to contribute effectively in various capacities, resulting in a well-rounded and skilled team.
When asked about the advantages of making in New York, Spring believes that it comes down to being closer to the renown art scene here in the city. This also ensures that the Foundry can continue to work with New York-based artists like Donald Moffet, and Diana Al-Hadid. As to the legacy of the Foundry, Jeffrey is not too worried; they’ve set up a foundation to preserve their archives, which contain important artifacts from sculptural history. “If you don’t preserve it, people might forget it,” says Jeffrey. “But if you do preserve it, it won’t be forgotten. There’s a mark that’s been made. Our name is on 100,000 statues—and that’s a significant part of history.”