Bronze statues and bronze sculptures  

bronze Children statues and children sculptures.  Great for garden statues and garden sculptures

Living Large
 
  by Tom Chalkley
 
4/21/2004

If you liked Haussner's, you'd love us," says Richard Rist, sporting a bemused smile as he leads a quick tour of his home-based gallery, the Large Art Co. The collection on display in Rist's Northeast Baltimore house is, in fact, quite reminiscent of the late Highlandtown restaurant's trove of kitsch and classicism, only the pieces are less crowded and, as the name indicates, larger. Rist's sunny office is dominated by a bronze eagle with a six-foot wingspan, and it's encircled with Frederic Remington horses and cowboys of all sizes, also cast in bronze. Half a dozen enormous paintings loom above the statuary: impasto street scenes, a huge nude with coyly positioned hands, a Klimt-esque portrait, a mysterious scene that looks like the cover of a fantasy novel.
Elsewhere in the house, the eclectic originals jostle with copies of famous and semifamous European works: David's "Napoleon Crossing the Alps," Monet's "Water Lilies," and more Klimt and Klimt-esque pieces. The unifying theme is, quite unapologetically, the scale. You can imagine these pictures hanging in restaurant stairwells or floating over vast sofas in cathedral-ceilinged living rooms.

"I love art, I want to be part of the art scene, but I'm not the artsy-fartsy kind," Rist says. Of the work on display, he says, "It is what it is. I have no pretensions about it." He does, however, have ambitions. He'd like to display and sell even bigger works, including murals. He wants to donate a couple of sculptures to the community. He has invited the Herring Run Artists Network --the local art gang--to meet at his office, under the gaze of the large eagle. He sees the gallery as a way to stimulate community life.

By his own account, Rist has lived an adventurous 43 years, pursuing a variety of careers--sailor, stockbroker, market researcher, and software developer--none of which heralded his present venture. Born and raised in Towson, he moved to rural North Carolina at the age of 14 to live with his divorced father. A few months later, his father was murdered. Unwelcome at his stepmother's house, he struck out on his own, surviving on Social Security checks and minimum-wage jobs. To avoid getting sent to a foster home, Rist learned to keep a low profile and take care of himself. At 18, he was managing a small-town convenience store; at 19, he was offered a chance to be a district manager for the retail chain. He didn't take it.

"I had this epiphany about my situation," he says. "Where I lived, people's highest aspirations included becoming a supervisor at a local furniture factory. . . . I quit my job and joined the Navy." His maritime service coincided with early confrontations between the United States and Islamic terrorists. In 1981, he was on one of the U.S. ships that sailed into Libya's Gulf of Sidra, defying Col. Muammar Qaddafi's threat to destroy the fleet.

"We were sitting ducks," Rist says. "It was pretty scary."

But at all the European ports of call, he would go see museums and parks while his mates sought out the bars. For a hungry kid from the boonies of North Carolina, the sights of Paris, Rome, and Florence were overwhelming. Most of all, he loved the public sculpture. (It's strange, he notes, that so much American art tends to be "small to midsize," while Europeans go for the big effects.)

Returning to the states, he enrolled at the University of Baltimore and fell in love with city life. He threw himself into extracurricular activities, starting a fraternity--the school's first after many fratless years--and spearheading campaigns to support local homeless shelters. (He traces his concern about homelessness to the vulnerability he felt as an orphaned teenager.) Prospective frat brothers had to spend a night on the brick plaza where the statue of Edgar Allan Poe sits. As the group's leader, Rist felt obligated to spend a whole week bedding down on the benches.

Throughout his post-naval trajectory, Rist collected art--especially large art--for his own enjoyment, and he soon realized that there weren't very many galleries that catered to such monumental tastes as his. In the mid-'90s, while he was working on an economic research project at Towson University, he began thinking out loud about starting an art dealership. His wife, Karen, then pregnant for the first time, talked him out of taking the entrepreneurial plunge. In retrospect, he says, he's glad his wife talked sense into him. But while he focused on other projects, the art idea simmered.

Rist and two colleagues developed software for cataloguing the job skills in a given population and matching employers with people in need of work. The somewhat unexpected success of that software product, now used by several Baltimore City agencies, allowed Rist to revisit his large-art concept. He and his wife bought a century-old clapboard house at 6500 Old Harford Road, made the move from the county to the city, and went scouting for a storefront. Finding nothing suitable on the main drag, Rist took a neighbor's suggestion and turned part of his home into showrooms. A bronze horse, which the Rists placed on their front lawn when they bought the place, serves as the gallery's de facto signboard. The Large Art Co. opened for business in August 2003.

While the horse has become a minor roadside attraction, off-the-street trade has never matched Large Art's Internet sales at www. LargeArt. com. The company's hottest items are bronzes: animals, barefoot children, western themes, nudes. He sells a lot in Florida, California, upstate New York, and the Washington suburbs. Rist orders the statuary from several American foundries, while most of his paintings come from overseas. (The rather titillating nude in the office, for example, was produced in an obscure Chinese village called Xiamen by a native craftsman who signs his work "Mosley.'' All his Chinese artists, Rist notes, use Anglo pseudonyms.)

It may take a while for Large Art to gain its full momentum, but Rist is confident of his marketing plans--and of the vast pool of consumers just waiting to find out about art that is, as he puts it, "big, reasonable, and available." There are no guarantees, but Rist says (with another bemused smile), "I've never been one to be fearful of the unknown."

Click here for original Baltimore City Paper article.
 
     
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Large Art
6500 Old Harford Road
Baltimore, MD 21214
 
(800) 785-4Art (4278) toll free
(410) 426-3844 local and direct
(410) 426-3945 fax

 
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