Patinated and Oxidized

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Patination and oxidation are chemical reactions that change the surface appearance of metals like bronze or copper, creating a green, pigmented “patina,” or “verdigris.” This chemical change occurs naturally as metal ages, as with ancient ritual bronzes from China, but it may also be the deliberate choice of the sculptor. Bronze sculptures from classical Greece and Rome, such as the famous She-Wolf of the Capitoline, were cherished by Renaissance artists like Donatello, who mimicked those works’ patina to connote antiquity. Today, contemporary artists like Igor Mitoraj replicate this aesthetic. Other artists have exploited oxidation processes for various formal effects, including Andy Warhol’s infamous Oxidation paintings—made from the reaction of urine on metallic copper paint—or the rust on Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc (1981), the result of the public steel sculpture being subjected to the elements.

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