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Wheel Life

Meet the artist behind South Water Street’s “Textured Gear”

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You know “Textured Gear,” if not by name than certainly by appearance. The sculpture, residing along the Providence River, is the giant silver ring, standing upright on the pavement. One half is rough, like salmon skin, while the other half has jagged, industrial teeth. Pedestrians pass it every day; drivers glimpse it as they coast down South Water Street. It’s a familiar fixture, but who put it there?

“Textured Gear” is the creation of Rob Lorenson, an artist and educator based in Fall River, Massachusetts. His studio is housed in a massive warehouse, sharing space with Concentric Fabrications, a custom metal company that Lorenson co-owns. Since settling in Massachusetts in 1999, Lorenson has crafted hundreds of large, stainless steel sculptures, most of them incorporating circular shapes.

“Metal itself is so durable and enduring,” says Lorenson. “And the circle is a special shape in nature – the sun, the moon, the center of a flower, the iris – so it seemed like a natural shape to utilize in a sculpture.”

Lorenson grew up in Chicago and speaks with an affable Midwestern accent, but he’s also eloquent about his work, having taught fine art at Bridgewater State University for nearly two decades. As for “Textured Gear,” Lorenson didn’t create the sculpture for any particular place, but Providence feels like the right spot.

“The piece was conceived before I had any idea where it was going,” he recalls. “But now it sort of reflects its original intent, with the industrial skyline behind it. It’s a little bit like the history of Providence.”