Imagine a mythological centaur hitting a home run out of Giants Stadium.
Or a bare-breasted mermaid diving for the ball in left field.
Russian born sculptor Alexei Kazantsev of Clinton went beyond imagination with his most recent commission.
“The Gods and Goddesses of Baseball,” was unveiled Monday, March 26 at the 170 Off Third Condominium complex across the street from San Francisco’s AT&T Park, where the Giants play ball.
The 18-part sculpture faces the ballpark and spans 120 feet at the second-story concrete bellyband of the contemporary brick building. Privately commissioned, it introduces a new pantheon of Greek gods and goddesses playing a vigorous game of baseball.
Kazantsev calls the beings “a revolutionary take on Greek mythological figures,” depicting them as playful athletes as well as gods. He said he found inspiration for the piece by researching the iconic playing positions in baseball, which he then fused with equally iconic portrayals of Greek deities.
Kazantsev admitted he didn’t know the first thing about baseball and had never even been inside a baseball stadium.
“I’m a Russian boy; we didn’t play baseball. What I did was read a lot of books about baseball, saw a lot of videos and tortured my father-in-law,” the sculptor said.
“Inspiration also came from the old San Francisco houses. The houses have ornaments on the corners of the buildings; these pieces are like big ornaments,” Kazantsev said.
Even the sculptures of various baseballs have their own personalities, he explained. Some are furious and fast, while others are lost in space.
Carved first in clay, the nine larger-than-life sculptures — representing a catcher, a pitcher, infielders and outfielders and nine celestial baseballs — were molded in silicone and cast of reinforced concrete. The design is similar to the traditional friezes that are often seen on ancient Greek temples.
This is a sort of frieze depicting the game of baseball, Kazantsev explained.
The pieces were designed and built by Kazantsev in his Clinton studio and then integrated with the 170 Off Third structure in San Francisco. (A video of the creative process is available as a DVD or it can be viewed at www.170offthird.com.)
The builder, Security Property Inc., has incorporated art on developments in the past with great success.
“This is without question our most extensive series of art installations on one building. Alexei’s art is just one of three major installations,” said company spokesman John Marasco.
Other artwork on the building included glass art by Rodman Miller, a massive steel sculpture by Mark Stevens, and hand-forged iron railings by Anna Sher. All of the artists are from Seattle and their work was previously featured together on the award-winning Epicenter Building at N. 34th Street and Fremont Avenue. That project was also built by Security Property Inc.
Kazanstev said he started working on the project in March 2004. It took him a year to create a blueprint for the work, and he started the clay models in September 2005. He finished in July 2006, and the pieces were then shipped to Canada to be cast in fiber-reinforced concrete.
It was a long process, but the project has proven to be a very satisfying one for the sculptor.
“I think this the best work I’ve ever created in my life,” Kazantsev said. “So, it is kind of the peak of my career.”
For more information about Kazanstev’s work visit www.aksculptstudios.com.
Patricia Duff can be reached at 221-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.