Made in New York: the Robotic Art Builder

When a five-ton gigantic robot creates a fragile artistic masterpiece made of lava rock, marble or precious stones, like calcite crystals, we know art making has just reached a whole new level.

Neoset Designs has turned the world upside down by making even the hardest designs possible to produce with minimal human interference by using advanced computer programming to monitor, with precision, the movements of machines usually found in manufacturing assembly lines —and creating art in the process.

Trusted by world renowned artists and operating some of the biggest robots in the East Coast, Neoset Design is one of the very few studios worldwide that program such big robots in order to produce modern art.

Ero Partsakoulaki/ NYCity Lens

The studio uses the same kind of robots that can be found in the aerospace, automotive or other hard manufacturing industries, but do so in an artistic way that is trusted by famous contemporary artists like Robert Longo. The American artist is among those who have worked with the team of Neoset Designs using advanced robotic software programming to bring his art to life in Brooklyn, New York.

“We are one of the very few places in the world where this type of art fabrication is conducted,” said Zoish Contractor, in an interview with NYCity Lens. Having studied architecture and design, she has been working with Neoset Designs for the last two years. “We don’t have direct competitors. There are some studios that fabricate art in the U.S. and some in Europe, in France and Italy, but none of them are using these kind of robots to produce high-end art to the scale, speed and precision that our programming allows us to offer.”

Ero Partsakoulaki/ NYCity Lens

The studio is located in Brooklyn Navy Yard, a large industrial park next to the water between Williamsburg and Manhattan bridge that is home to over 400 businesses. Neoset Designs has its own working space in what resembles a large warehouse, full of robots, dust and industrial flavor. As sounds of clanging metals intersect with the buzzing of motors, an art piece is in the making.

Since the machines found at the studio are normally used in manufacturing, they need a different and innovative programming approach in order to be set up for the challenging task to sculpture art works.

“There’s a lot of physical labor involved as well,” said Zoish. “It’s a highly creative process.”

Five to six people work at the studio each day programming and performing the demanding physical work that might be required to produce the art pieces. One of the hardest parts, and one in which Neoset Designs has been very innovative, is setting up the robots in order to be able to handle the creative mindset of art production.

These machines have six-axis pivotal capacity and mimic, cartesian moves just like the human hand. The sliding joints of each robot correspond to moving the wrist up-down, in-out, back and forth.

Ero Partsakoulaki/ NYCity Lens

The artists collaborating with Neoset Designs are usually American or Chinese and usually spend time with the team at the studio for every stage of the production of their art piece. They are the ones who come up with an original idea that they later assign to Neoset. They can provide a digital or paper design, as well as a clay sculpture model that will be scanned in 3-D by the team in order to be digitally transformed.

After the details of each assignment are set, including the material of which the art piece will be made, the process of creating the finalized design can take months of hard work.

“After what we call the roughing pass, the first cuts and the initial sculpturing of the material that allows us to have an idea of the final shape, come the pre-finishing and the finishing phases,” said Zoish.

One of the most impressive works produced by Neoset Designs is Longo’s artwork “Death Star II” which tackles gun violence in America using bullets to reflect the increase in mass shootings over the last 25 years. This is a “sequel” to his original 1993 sculpture Death Star, only this time twice as large.  Forty thousand bullets were put around an entire large-scale sphere.

“Our team had to die and gleam the bullets by hand and advanced programming had to be used in order to put the sphere together,” said Zoish.

However, this type of art fabrication is not always popular among contemporary artists, who believe it alienates the artist from its creations. Considered a taboo even by some who try this method, many artists do not speak openly about using this type of technology for their art. The market appeal for an artwork created by robots is problematic too.

For the potential buyer, art is still connected to classical antiquity and therefore many find it weird that an art work is not directly connected and produced to its creator.

However, the team of Neoset Designs believes that this machinery is initiating a new era in the creative industry and is an upcoming way to create demanding artworks.

Similarly, some artists are very open about this new, differentiated approach to the creation of upscale modern art and they even decide to leave the milling marks, by the use of a milling machine, on their sculpture without concealing them. They become an integral part of the art work.

The clientele of the studio has been steady since 2012 when it first started to operate. Every year, 40 to 50 art works are being produced at a minimum of $3,000 to $4,000 dollars as a starting price.

Abstract and avant-garde art needs a highly technical approach and extreme precision than only technology is able to offer. For Neoset Designs it is a highly intellectual and intriguing process that exceeds robotics.