Two generations of Grignaffinis exhibit work together

“The Local Commotions,” by painter Bob Grignaffini, is among the pieces by members of his family in “Grignaffini Rhythms: Music, Strokes and Steel,” on display in Framingham.

“The Local Commotions,” by painter Bob Grignaffini, is among the pieces by members of his family in “Grignaffini Rhythms: Music, Strokes and Steel,” on display in Framingham.


When Wellesley painter Bob Grignaffini got his turn for an exhibition at Fountain Street Fine Art in Framingham, he knew the artists he would choose as collaborators for the show: his cousin’s teenage sons, both talented metal sculptors who honed their artistic skills as students at Wellesley High School.

As the exhibition at his artists’ collaborative took shape, Bob found himself thinking about another person whose work should be included as well: the boys’ father, Lou Grignaffini. The two cousins, born five days apart 45 years ago, grew up on the same street in Wellesley and have been lifelong friends; both matured into artists as well, even as they pursued other careers, Bob as a landscaper and Lou as a welder.

But Bob never stopped painting, and as he developed his own body of work, he also enjoyed watching his cousin’s sons, Louie and A.J. Grignaffini, develop into fine artists.

“Welding sculpture is something I have always admired, and you don’t see enough of it,” Bob said. “The boys have a skill with welding. I’m a painter, but there’s something similar in the energy of our work. I paint with big raw strokes, and they pull together found pieces and weld other pieces together. It’s as if we work in two different mediums with a shared energy.”

The teens were delighted when Bob invited them to exhibit with him. A.J., who just started his senior year at Wellesley High, called it “awesome,” saying he and his older brother “had this moment when we high-fived” at hearing the news. After taking a metal jewelry class in school, A.J. has started working in smaller forms, and is eager to display a new piece, in which he applied the technique of Russian filigree, using very delicate wires, to make a tiny but fully functioning replica of a bicycle.

But once Bob had an overview of the work that he and the two teens would be presenting in the Fountain Street Fine Art gallery, he felt there was something missing: namely, the larger, bulkier metal sculptures of the elder Lou Grignaffini. Knowing his cousin was very slowly easing back into his artwork, Bob urged him to consider joining the exhibition, and Lou eventually agreed.

“I started teaching my kids about welding when they were about 11,” Lou said. “Working with them has brought me back to it, and seeing what they can do has inspired me. Very recently, I’ve started producing a little bit more sculpture, and now there are a bunch more pieces that I want to work on.”

The challenge Bob faced was finding a theme that would unite his oil paintings and the other family members’ sculptures. Finding out that his relatives were taking a trip to New Orleans, he suggested they all think about music and motion. As a result, Bob switched from his usual practice of painting landscapes and cityscapes in favor of images of street musicians, and the father and sons did the same, creating three-dimensional figures out of tin and aluminum.

“I like to think their work gives me inspiration and my work gives them inspiration,” Bob said. “I think my cousin Lou is an incredibly talented sculptor, and now that his children are a little older I’m hoping he can put some more time on it.” As for the teen artists, Bob said that “younger guys can have two dozen interests at once and you don’t know where their life is going to go. When they see their pieces in the show, I hope they see their talent and feel inspired at this crucial point in their life.”

“Grignaffini Rhythms: Music, Strokes and Steel” is on exhibit through Sept. 28 at Fountain Street Fine Art, 59 Fountain St., Framingham.

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