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Metal man

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You’re probably familiar with the phrase “less is more.” Whether you subscribe to this credo is another matter. But Oklahoma City-based designer and sculptor Larry Pickering believes there’s an undeniable truth in simplicity.

“I’ve always been a simple person,” Pickering said. “I like simple colors. I like natural colors. I’m driven by that. I can see the beauty in an old rusted farm fence.”

Working at Fitzsimmons Architects, he has steadily built a robust catalog of mind-bending structures throughout the metro, from chic downtown lofts to the much-ballyhooed remodeling of Flaming Lips leader Wayne Coyne’s home. Pickering’s modernist approach to shape and color has garnered accolades from some of the industry’s most respected organizations.

His sculptures, several of which will be on display at Guthrie’s Gallery Grazioso, are unmistakably minimal on the surface — a by-product of his unorthodox conceptual process.

Each piece’s framework is born from a specific thought or idea, not a circumstantial “Eureka!”-like moment. Consequently, the results are often richly nuanced and methodical, boasting an understated yet profound attention to detail.

By encouraging thoughtful interpretation, Pickering allows his audience to connect with his work intellectually and emotionally.

“A thought or an emotion or an idea can be expressed with a single line,” he said. “It’s all interpretive.”

The trick, however, is expressing complex thoughts and ideas through a seemingly basic visual. Pickering’s work is as intricate and abstract as even the most elaborate pieces.

“When you let steel rust, it rusts in patterns, in different ways,” he said. “Each piece is going to be different. Each surface of a sculpture can feel a little bit different with regard to texture and variation.”

Raw materials — steel, concrete and glass — are his most trusted building blocks, and rarely are they portrayed in anything other than their natural state. In fact, the overwhelming majority of his sculptures are devoid of any artificial coloration.

In doing so, Pickering strives to portray real life through texture, proportion and color. Under the right light, these elements carry with them a highly meditative existential depth.

“The cycle of life is always on the forefront of my mind. And what I’m doing in my artwork is trying to be reflective of that,” he said. “The concept of hope and inspiration is an idea. So, why not try to express that in a physical form? The rawness of the material, like rusted steel, talks about that. It’s a cyclical process: There’s a beginning, middle and end.”

Where to draw that distinction? Well, that’s a matter of interpretation.

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