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Herb Alpert brings bronze totems to Chicago’s Field Museum

It’s a perfect fit.

Hundreds of thousands of museum-goers have visited the exhibits of carved totems at the Field Museum over the years. The carved structures from various cultures across the globe have given visitors a close-up view of the intricately designed artwork/spiritual/religious icons.

Now visitors can reach out and touch a whole new interpretation on the art form from a rather unlikely source — Grammy Award-winning trumpeter/singer — and artist — Herb Alpert.

Beginning Sept. 17, Alpert’s massive Spirit Totems, a collection of black bronze sculptures, will be featured on the museum’s South steps (with an additional totem inside the main hall). The sculptures will be on display through Sept. 2016.

Herb Alpert, amid his bronze totems. | FIELD MUSEUM

Herb Alpert, amid his bronze totems. | FIELD MUSEUM

“I started with three-foot totems, more symbolic, bouncing off what I had seen… but soon I took the work in more abstract directions and it became more like a jazz response,” Alpert said about his partial inspiration for the works, following a visit to the Pacific Northwest in 2000. In a statement, Alpert said: “The totems I saw years ago in the Pacific Northwest — like the ones that are so beautifully displayed in the permanent collection at The Field —moved my sculptural concept from the literal to the spontaneity of abstraction. I feel honored to be part of The Field Museum experience, and to have my Spirit Totems installed and greet visitors that come to the Museum for inspiration and knowledge.”

Each totem takes about three months to complete and begins as a 10-inch hand-sculpted wax form, then to clay before being “transposed” into its larger incarnation (ranging from 13 to 18 feet tall). According to the museum, Alpert’s totems have been described as “frozen smoke” and are touchable — a rare quality in bronze sculpture.

Alpert is no stranger to the art world; in an interview with the Sun-Times a few years back, Alpert revealed his love affair with art as a painter and sculptor.  The Herb Alpert Foundation has bestowed more than $6 million in grants over 20 years to risk-taking artists in dance, film/video, music, theater and visual arts.

Alpert is most familiar for his work as a musician/producer with his band The Tijuana Brass and collaborations with his wife, singer Lani Hall. His hits include “Rise,” “This Girl’s In Love With You” and “A Taste of Honey.”

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