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ASU debuts Franco brothers' art exhibit this weekend

Sewer pipes become something beautiful at Franco brothers' show at ASU museum.
"Pipe Brothers" exhibit shines "a light on the art ecosystem," says ASU curator.
James Franco and brother's ceramics exhibit runs June 17-Sept. 23 in Tempe.
June 15, 2017

'Pipe Brothers: Tom and James Franco' by artist/actor duo features ceramic sewer pipes made with help of Phoenix factory

Actor James Franco has made a successful career from being wildly unpredictable, playing a vast array of characters from James Dean to a supervillian in "Spider-Man" to a drug dealer named Alien.

His next project has to do with pipes — no, it’s not what you’re thinking — though it does have to do with the gutter.

The famous actor, writer, director and producer is collaborating with his brother, full-time sculptor Tom (pictured above), in a new exhibit at the ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center. It makes its national debut on Saturday, June 17.

“Pipe Brothers: Tom and James Franco” is an exhibition consisting of nine large carved and painted ceramic sewer pipes, which measure seven and a half feet tall and weigh nearly 750 pounds apiece. It runs through Sept. 23.

An artist’s reception is being planned for the beginning of the school semester.

“We love exhibits like these because an artist like James Franco the public knows and this is so unexpected,” said Garth Johnson, curator of ceramics at the ASU Art Museum. “Artists are doing incredible work with ceramics and they are helping to shine a light on the art ecosystem, and that’s a win for me.”

Johnson was quick to point out that Franco’s brother Tom is a respected and dedicated artist from the Bay Area who learned his craft at the California College of Arts in Oakland under the tutelage of veteran artist and textbook author John Toki.

“Tom Franco is an up-and-coming, dynamic Renaissance man who has tremendous drive and talent,” Toki said. “He also has a unique artistic bent.”

The Franco brothers frequently work together, but none of their projects has been as unusual or as ambitious as “Pipe Brothers.”

To create the artwork, the Francos — along with members of the Firehouse Art Collective, a non-profit Tom founded that provides affordable spaces where artists can live, work and collaborate — made frequent visits over the course of a year to Mission Clay Products, a Phoenix-based factory that produces the ceramic pipes, which are more durable and sustainable than plastic.

The Franco brothers had to adjust their working schedules to fit into the factory’s rhythms and equipment.

“We were easily putting in 14-hour days,” Toki said. “We’d have to flood the floor with water so the ceramic wouldn’t crack. It takes a strong soul to endure that, especially in the Arizona heat.”

The countless hours of carving and painting resulted in pipe pieces depicting a rabbit jumping rope, James Dean behind the wheel of his Porsche, and people playing soccer.

Timelapse of the installation for “Pipe Brothers: Tom and James Franco” at the ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center.

Under the direction of owner Bryan Vansell, Mission Clay has worked with ceramic artists for more than three decades as part of its arts and industry program, which allows artists to engage with the industrial ceramic fabrication process.

Tom Franco credits Mission Clay for inspiring him to work outside his comfort zone.

“There were so many firsts for me with the medium of clay — the size of the sculptures, working conditions, immersion in process,” Franco said in an ASU press release. “I’ve completely fallen into obsession with the cylindrical form; it’s like finding primal shape that we can’t live without.”

After the exhibition at ASU, the pipes will tour other cities and eventually will live on as public art, Johnson said.

“It’s ideal for public art because they’re durable,” he said. “They’re made to last hundreds of years.”

For hours, directions and parking, visit asuartmuseum.asu.edu.

 

Top photo: The ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center in Tempe is hosting "Pipe Brothers: Tom and James Franco," an exhibition of nine large carved and painted sewer pipes. The exhibit starts Saturday and runs through Sept. 23. Tom Franco (pictured above) is a full-time sculptor. Photo courtesy of ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center

 
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ASU students team up with Barrow to create medical rehab devices

ASU students create 3 solutions to help those with impaired mobility.
Entrepreneurship-based class teaches how to move devices out of lab, into world.
June 16, 2017

Therapists and physicians share challenges; engineering professor's class develops solutions, 3 of which are being patented

In most classes, a good job results in an "A."

In Panagiotis Polygerinos’ mechatronics device class, a good job results in a patented invention that improves lives.

The Arizona State University assistant professor (pictured above) teamed his engineering students with therapists and physicians at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix to create medical rehab devices.

Three of those devices are being patented.

“Now we have three provisional patents, we’re about to submit for a full application, we have three papers submitted, and who know what else will come?” Polygerinos said.

The class — EGR 598 Mechatronics Device Innovation — is entrepreneurship-based. Students learn how to move their inventions out of the lab and into the world as well as create them.

“The course is about how do you build a device from scratch?” Polygerinos said. “It takes a lot, but it’s worth it.”

Barrow medical professionals came up with about 15 ideas. The class chose three of them and went to work.

Video: See the Soft Robotic Back Orthosis in action.

After back surgery or recovering from a back injury, patients currently have to wear splints.

Splints result in “pressure points, fatigue to the skin, inability to perform in your everyday life because you are restricted,” Polygerinos said. “Now the idea was, can we create a device that is transparent to the user?”

The Soft Robotic Back Orthosis is a variably adjusting device, a network of webbing, straps and soft inflatable bladders that transmits loads and forces around. It protects the back and prevents wearers from movements that would aggravate their injuries.

Video: See how the Soft Robotic Shoulder Assist Device for Wheelchair Users works.

Patients who use wheelchairs develop shoulder pain from repetitively pushing the wheels. The Soft Robotic Shoulder Assist Device for Wheelchair Users gives a boost in pushing at the exact second it is most difficult. Results from experiments with a wheelchair test participant were promising.

People who use walkers tend to lean on them too much, contorting their backs and arms. Handles on the Biofeedback Walker vibrate when users put too much pressure on them. It’s a way of having a physical therapist constantly present, correcting their posture. Students are still developing the walker.

The three teams of four graduate students each were funded by a $2,500 budget from Venturewell, a nonprofit that funds and trains faculty and student innovators to create successful, socially beneficial businesses.

Arizona Technology Enterprises, ASU’s intellectual property management company, prepped students on how to bring inventions to market, providing lectures on intellectual property, marketing, licensing and startups.

As well as creating, designing, prototyping and evaluating, students have to write a publication-quality paper and submit it to a conference or journal.

“They have to submit a paper — not to me, that I would put in a drawer after I give them a grade — but they have to submit a paper at a conference,” Polygerinos said.

Instead of only working in the lab, Polygerinos wants to recruit and work with actual patients, to test devices on them, collect more data and prove prototypes work.

The course will be offered again in January 2018.

Projects don’t necessarily need to end with the course, Polygerinos said.

“If they are willing to continue, why not? I am here to help them to completion if they want and to make an impact on the real world,” he said.

 

Top photo: ASU Assistant Professor Panagiotis Polygerinos demonstrates the Soft Robotic Back Orthosis device as he talks about innovative medical habilitation devices his graduate students at the Polytechnic campus' Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering created with the assistance of physicians and clinicians at the Barrow Neurological Institute, with support from VentureWell and AzTE. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now

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