Friday April 19, 2024 | by Andrew Page

CONVERSATION: John Drury discusses curating his New York City gallery exhibition exploring contemporary approaches to glass

Through May 11, unusual glass constructions have taken over the white cube of SARAHCROWN Gallery, bringing new forms and rare coloration. Collaborations by Amy Lemaire & Nicolas Touron occupy the center of the gallery, while works by Michael Aschenbrenner, and Jennifer Crescuillo round out the experimental nature of the various objects arranged on plinths or along the wall. Some of the works are made with the mediation of technology, as in the Lemaire-Touron collaborations that merge flameworking with 3D-printed porcelain, a dialogue between two makers, but also between the machine-made and hand-worked processes. Aschenbrenner's meditations on mortality, shaped by his experiences during the Vietnam War, contrast man's capacity for brutality with literal and figurative healing. Crescuillo's intuitive hand-built vessels and sculptures remind us of why we are drawn to the handmade, objects that reflect intuition and encapsulate time in their subject matter and making. The Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet recently caught up with curator John Drury (who is also a contributing editor to the print publication Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly) to find out more about his choices and intentions in grouping these artists together in a single exhibition. The interview was conducted via email exchange.

Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet: What is it like curating an exhibition of glass art for a non-glass venue such as the SARAHCROWN Gallery? How much do you need to consider the venue, and the knowledge base, if at all?
John Drury: It is preferable. I am in general, not a proponent of media specificity and prefer the material glass in most cases, not all, to be -– and even in individual works-– mixed, in combination other matter. I come to curation a maker, and employ all material in my own expressive endeavors. I am fond of relaying, when in teaching situations, “Shit or gold; all substance is compatible to the expression of human emotion”. I am not interested in insularity, but the dialogue inherent in variety. I demand an expression knowledgeable, purposeful and prefer my objects intuitively built -- residue the heart and the hand. I am not interested in the sterility of muscle-memory and rote repetitive maneuvering to known or intended ends. There is only stasis in banal repetition.

A vessel by Jennifer Crescuillo to the left of one of Michael Aschenbrenner's wall works.

My curatorial effort "THE BUILDERS," is a study in a rare, produced individuality including the work of Michael Aschenbrenner, Jennifer Crescuillo and the team of Amy Lemaire and Nicolas Touron. There is a pronounced flexibility in the collaborative work of Lemaire and Touron; the peculiarities of self takes a backseat to shared concern. A combination of 3D-printed porcelain and other clay bodies, as integrated with Borosilicate, finds very little comparative amongst artists. This is the singularity that I seek. Lemaire and Touron share an interest in the natural world, and build as foil the behaviors, use and/or misuse, an industrialized, Capitalist and consumer-infatuated society. They worry for a world where the demand, far outweighs the supply; an imbalance assuring demise.

Michael Aschenbrenner's broken glass bones, repaired with tree branch splints, are metaphors for trauma and healing.

Glass: What drew you to the specific artists that you chose – they seem to span quite a range of approaches to glass, as well as ideas. What do you see as the reason that they belong together in a single show?
Drury: I celebrate artists, always, and as one should expect - whom I believe to be, first and foremost –unique, one-offs if you will, and at the top of their game; mature makers with a stout conceptual base; artists whose work I covet. Too often in glass, we have allowed plagiarism, the knock-off and the near-miss – to the detriment the potential of the movement. I ask young artists, what it is that they possess, that nobody else does – and shouldn’t that be the goal of
any artist, to be distinctive (?) – and the answer, is “themselves”. In her cast vessels, Jennifer Crescuillo’s hand-built fonts track her every creative move, to include even her fingerprints; they record her. The hand is never hidden, and she makes these works to counter, in contradiction, so much of what she sees (we see) made, striving for exactitude, precision and polish. Hers are brutish and never truly symmetrical. I search for originators.

Amy Lemaire & Nicolas Touron bring together glass and ceramic, and the hand made and 3D-printed.

Glass: What can you say about the adjacencies, juxtapositions and unifying themes that bridge the gaps between generations and sensibilities that are part of this specific grouping of artists?
Drury: There is throughout, the concern for humanism in my choices. There is in that ageless regard, a shared interest amongst my makers, in the personal and in the natural world about them; how and why things are done, procedures are followed and the repercussions of choices made; there is the pursuit of a certain “good”, moving sensibly forward, of troubleshooting, of proactive thought. Michael Aschenbrenner’s "Damaged Bone" series is a direct response to his experience in the Vietnam war, as a young man. Like Jennifer Crescuillo’s efforts, there is a bare-bones honesty. Truth is beauty. His is a story of damage, shoot from the hip repair (healing) and the long-term repercussions and inadequacies of war; man’s inhumanity to man. Michael’s is a make-do effort that I am quite enamored of – a lifting toward light by the bootstraps, and by example, a tale shared for all of humanity. His is a lifelong and brave pursuit
understanding. That’s art.


Group Exhibition
"The Builders"
Michael Aschenbrenner, Jennifer Crescuillo, Amy Lemaire & Nicolas Touron
373 Broadway #215
New York, NY 10013
Thursday to Saturday, 12-6 and by appointment

Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.