Music in motion with Herb Alpert’s ‘Totems’

Malibu resident Herb Alpert, a Grammy Award-winning musician, unveiled "Totems," his work incorporating cast bronze sculptures at New York City's Bryant Park last week.

The Grammy Award-winning musician and artist unveils his sculpture work, which he says is “a moment of connection to my deepest self.”

By Jennifer Clay / Special to The Malibu Times

Local artist and musician Herb Alpert officially unveiled “Totems,” a work incorporating cast bronze sculptures, in New York City’s Bryant Park last week. Installation began at the park’s southwest corner on Oct. 5, and the exhibition is scheduled to run through the month.

According to the exhibition’s press release, the 70-year-old artist was inspired to create the work after visiting the Totem Sculpture Garden in British Columbia’s Stanley Park. In New York, Alpert was unavailable for an interview.

“The tribes of Indians who lived in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska created a new language of art that I related to,” Alpert said in the release.

The installation consists of six totems ranging in height from 8 feet to 12 feet and each weighing approximately 900 pounds. To create the pieces, Alpert first fashioned wax models and smaller clay prototypes, later creating wax molds and finally the finished pieces. According to Bryant Park’s Web site, the faint finishing color of the castings is a result of acid washes and oxide patinas, and the organic forms of the totems evoke a “distinctive” chain, feeling or a phrase.

Alpert, a renowned trumpet player and recipient of eight Grammy Awards, sees a connection between sculpting and music.

“I move wax or clay around and look for shapes and motion,” Alpert said in the press release. “My Totems represent a walk into the unknown world of my total freedom, freedom that connects to my sense of jazz. A moment of connection to my deepest self.”

Alpert cultivated his taste for abstract art visiting museums while touring internationally with the Tijuana Brass, according to the release. Alpert formed the Brass, a Latin-flavored pop group, in the early 1960s, co-founding A&M Records with music exec Jerry Moss around the same time. He began painting in the late 1960s and began sculpting a few years later, continuing to produce and release music with and without the Brass. (Alpert’s “Rise,” an instrumental, hit No. 1 on the pop charts in 1979.) His visual art has exhibited nationally and internationally. “Herb Alpert: Sculpture and Painting,” a hardcover retrospective of his career, was compiled for a solo show at the Tennessee State Museum in 2001.

In the book, Alpert says he’s attracted to abstract art because “it doesn’t tell the whole story immediately.” His Web site characterizes his own canvases as filled with “flowing shapes, bold brushstrokes and exploding colors.”

With his wife, Lani Hall Alpert, also a Grammy Award-winning musician, Alpert also runs the nonprofit Herb Alpert Foundation, which contributes funds to art and education programs.

More information on “Totems,” which closes Nov. 3, can be obtained by visiting Bryant Park’s Web site at