Richard F. “Dick” Polich, 90, the founder of the Tallix foundries, died Nov. 13.
Born in 1932 in Lyons, Illinois, near Chicago, to Croatian immigrant, Polich was a standout football player at Morton High School and recruited to play for Yale. After graduating in 1954 with a degree in economics, he took a job in industrial manufacturing at American Brake Shoe Co. before serving three years as a Navy fighter pilot.
After briefly attending the Harvard School of Design, he reconnected with his former mentor at American Brake Shoe, Merton Flemings, who taught metallurgy at MIT and ran its experimental foundry. Polich graduated with a master’s degree from MIT in 1964, but it wasn’t until the end of the decade that he took the leap and moved to the Hudson Valley with his partner, artist Toni Putnam, to start a foundry for artists, Tallix, in Cold Spring.
Polich’s foundries became extensions of the artists’ studios, and a team of craftspeople cast and fabricated thousands of sculptures, monuments and design objects, including Louise Bourgeois’s 32-foot-tall spider Maman in Tokyo, Tom Otterness’s playground at Hamad Airport in Qatar, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Some of the most iconic artworks of the 20th century, such as Jeff Koons’ stainless steel Rabbit, were cast and mirror polished at Tallix. Since 2016, the gold-plated Oscar statuettes have been made at Polich Tallix from new molds.
The foundry moved several times to accommodate the growing needs of artists, first to Peekskill in 1970, the Peekskill waterfront in 1976, and finally in 1986 to an industrial site in Beacon with three buildings on eight acres.
Riding the decade’s frothy art market, Tallix merged with an English company and Polich became president of Tallix Morris Singer. After reaching its peak of nearly 190 employees and popular attention thanks to taking on the quixotic challenge of casting a sculpture based on Leonardo da Vinci’s plans for an equestrian monument, Tallix floundered in the early 1990s recession, and Polich lost control of his company.
He left in 1995 and partnered with artist Frank Stella, who invited Polich to establish a new foundry, Polich Art Works, across the Hudson in Rock Tavern. Their first collaboration was Stella’s 30-ton stainless steel abstract sculpture Amabel, in 1996, commissioned by a corporation in Seoul.
Over the next decade, Polich’s new foundry gained strength while he found himself in the strange position of competing against Tallix. Eventually the two foundries merged around 2007, under the name Polich Tallix.
From 2013 to 2015, Polich was the subject of articles and interviews in Art in America, The New York Times, and National Public Radio, and the subject of an exhibition, documentary film, and catalogue at the Dorsky Museum, SUNY New Paltz. To secure the longevity of the foundry and the jobs of its craftspeople, Polich sold the foundry to the international firm UAP in 2019.
Polich married his longtime partner Cathy Kuttner in 2014. Several previous marriages ended in divorce. In addition to Kuttner, he is survived by his children, stepchildren, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held in the spring at UAP Polich Tallix. Memorial donations may be made to the Dick Polich Youth Internship Fund which provides foundry experience for at-risk youth. (cfosny.org).
Information provided by Holle Funeral Home, Maplewood, New Jersey