David Mach: Coathanger sculptures

On the Rocks and Straight Up are female and male sculptures, respectively, created with hundreds of recycled wire coat hangers by the Scottish artist David Mach. Known for using odd but common materials, Mach created an entire series of busts made from matchsticks, and has also made art with postcards and magazines. With these offbeat media, the artist bends the rules of sculpture to communicate with a wider audience.

The Coathangers series includes not only human figures, but also large-scale animals including a tiger and a gorilla that look wonderfully ferocious, as a taxidermist might pose them, while retaining his signature aesthetic and style. On the Rocks and Straight Up represent excellent examples of how Mach defines his figures — not by the plastic mold that begins his process, but rather by the wiry, pointy and curled, nickel-finished surface that makes them appear alive, as illusions, or in some way mysterious.

For each sculpture, Mach coats the mold in hard plastic and attaches the hangers, which he welds to each other around the plastic positive. After removing the mold, he nickel-plates the figures. The results are realistic, emotive, and wildly expressionist.

Mach has received many honors for his work since the 1980s, including a nomination for the Turner Prize and a fellowship at the Royal Academy of the Arts, where he has been a professor of sculpture for the past 15 years. He continues to push the boundaries of contemporary figurative sculpture in innovative ways that continue the trajectory begun by masters such as Henry Moore and, more recently, Antony Gormley.