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Tom Joyce, Platen I and II

Tom Joyce, Platen I, 1994-95 Tom Joyce, Platen II, 1994-95

Tom Joyce
born 1956 Tulsa, Oklahoma; lives in Santa Fe
Platen I and Platen II
1994-95
mild steel and incinerated books
16 x 10 x 1 in. each
courtesy of the Artist and Gerald Peters Contemporary, © 2020 Tom Joyce
photos by Krysta Jabsczenski

Platens are objects that can exert great pressure, both physically and psychologically. Tom Joyce created these works 25 years ago as he was contemplating the 50th anniversary of Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.

Studies on thermal sciences and metallurgical engineering radically changed after the explosion at Trinity. The metal structure housing the bomb vaporized as the blast reached temperatures as hot as the sun. To create his Platen series, Tom Joyce visited the salvage yard at Los Alamos National Laboratories and collected iron bar and steel plate as well as obsolete technical reference books on mechanical behaviors for iron and steel.

Joyce created these two works by heating the two slabs of steel (platens) to just below the melting point with one of these outdated metallurgical volumes placed between the plates. He then squeezed the stack under 100 tons of pressure until the book incinerated. The remaining chemical residue from the paper and ink became drawings on steel.

As conceptual works of art, the sculptures reference the instantaneous destruction of matter by nuclear explosions. The fact that both the destructive component of the sculpture and the book were sourced from Los Alamos suggests that Trinity destroyed old ways of understanding many things, even some of the science that went into developing the bomb.

 Download an art card for Platen I