When an exhibition of French sculptor Dominique Labauvie's work opens at the Tampa Museum of Art on Aug. 13, his graceful steel pieces won't have traveled far to be on display. Just a few miles north of the museum, in a converted warehouse in Tampa Heights shared by Labauvie, his wife, printmaker Erika Greenberg-Schneider, and their teenage daughter, the sculptor welds, forges and cuts steel into dancing, calligraphic forms.
The 4,000-square-foot commercial building, divided between studios and living space for the family, bears the name Bleu Acier (in French: blue steel, for the point at which the forged metal becomes hottest). Inside, Labauvie's metalworking studio abuts Greenberg-Schneider's printmaking atelier, where she collaborates with a regular group of French and American artists to make gorgeous artists' prints in small editions. Remaining space houses the family's living quarters as well as a gallery that Greenberg-Schneider has used to host exhibitions of contemporary art off and on since 2004.
Labauvie's handiwork adorns the home — not only in the form of freestanding sculptures but in functional incarnations as well. In the dining room, a long, perforated metal table seats more than a dozen for supper; atop it, a delicate, three-tiered rack made of glass and steel holds wine glasses. Every corner of the home bears the artist's signature, from decorative steel brackets supporting shelves of books to a concrete-and-steel coffee table. Kitchen cabinets pull open with handles hammered by Labauvie.
The TMA exhibit, of course, showcases the sculptor's more monumental work — a massive wall-mounted piece constructed from gently undulating steel lines (improbably graceful given their origins in rigid metal) as well as an array of tabletop sculptures. The Tampa show will be complemented in October by a showcase of the artist's drawings and sculpture at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg and a small exhibition at Bleu Acier itself, scheduled for November — all a fitting tribute for an artist who recently turned 60.
"Art is inscribed in the length of a life," Labauvie says.