We finally got word on a project that’s been on my mind ever since Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico. Roy Lichtenstein’s “Brushstrokes in Flight” was installed some years ago at the Museo de Art-Ponce, P.R. It took on the full force of Maria’s Category 5 fury and came through with ‘flying colors” (pun intended!).
“How strong does it have to be?”
We had considered a Category 5 eventuality early on in the design phase. “If it gets hit” was not even considered! “When it gets hit”, only was. Our team took painstaking efforts to develop internal structural load paths that would withstand not only extremely high wind surge but also long duration loading that could weaken a metal’s resolve. We also took into account the cantilevered nature of Roy’s design (evident in the 2nd element from the top) which could induce ‘wagging’ within the structure during a high wind event. Harmonic vibrations such as “wagging” can seriously diminish a metal’s strength quickly via metal fatigue. Special diagonal internal gussets were installed to negate the possibility of “wag”.
“Built to withstand nature’s wrath”
None of this would make any difference at all if the fabrication phase didn’t live up to our expectations! Only damage tolerant and corrosion resistant marine aluminum will ever find it’s way into an Amaral Custom Fabrication’s aluminum sculpture. “Brushstrokes in Flight” was no exception. All welds were full penetration and done to US Coast Guard’s standard for aluminum vessels. The use of non-heat-treatable marine aluminum meant that 80% of the original strength of the base material would be retained as compared to 30-35% retention in the most popular commercial aluminum. Our efforts to minimize plate distortion normally associated with aluminum comes via a carefully thought out, sequential welding pattern done at a nominal temperature of 68 degrees F. We will NEVER skimp on welding to avoid plate distortion as many other fabricators have been known to do.
Finally, we come to the finish! Really this is all the artist cares about. The colors must be right. The level of gloss must be too. After 6 years in the Puerto Rican sun, I cannot detect any change from day one! We accomplish this by using a paint system designed around the special needs of aluminum and typically reserved for the aeronautic and marine client. The Awlgrip Paint system we use has the color spectrum covered to the delight of some of the world’s pickiest color critics. It also has the performance needed to keep commercial jetliners in the air rather than in the paint booth.
“…the engineering of the sculpture…withstood the hurricane. Congratulations!” Jack Cowart – Executive Director – The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation