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Wednesday September 26, 2012 | by Andrew Page

Exhibition reveals a stark contrast between generations of glass artists

FILED UNDER: Exhibition, New Work

Matthew Cummings, Suspended, 2012. H 50, W 24, D 9 in.

It’s rare for undiscovered glass artists to be shown alongside American Studio Glass masters, but walking into the current show at Ken Saunders Gallery offers a glimpse of the legacy of Studio Glass opposite a newly minted generation of artists. The gallery divides the shows into two adjacent spaces, and the differences between the two bodies of work are immediately obvious. The “Masterworks from the Studio Glass Movement,” boasts colorful flamboyant vessel work from Dale Chihuly, William Morris, Joel Philip Myers, Harvey Littleton and Mark Peiser. “Original Voices,” has determinately little color, no vessel work was included, and each artist had homed in on specific techniques that define their unique aesthetic.

Joel Philip Myers, Ording Fields, 1988. H 17 1/2, W 13, D 3 3/4 in.

In “Masters,” gallerist Ken Saunders selected a single piece from each of the artists represented. Most of the work was created in the 1980s and 90s, and Saunders explained to the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet that he selected pieces from the artists’ prime that “you can almost imagine how people could fall in love with.” Work by William Morris and Joel Philip Myers had remarkably sophisticated choices of color and composition, and although the forms are simple you can see their approach is in the paradigm of abstract painting, rather than sculpture. Chihuly’s Lemon Yellow Inside Soft Cyliner with White Drawing and Red Wrap (1987) has some of the hand made charm semi-skilled American hands, and inventive imagery of with bold colors of the 80s. Mark Peiser’s Sunset Returning from Atlanta (1990) is a flawlessly faceted geometric form, which modulated from a deep transparent brown to atmospheric pastels, depending on the angle of the viewer. The sculpture cast a projection of a sunset on the surface of the pedestal, showing the swirling colors of the clouds and a precisely placed yellow orb. The piece is both sublime and modest, capturing the phenomenon of glass and light in a small and humble gesture.

Matthew Cummings, Birth and Death of a Shadow, 2012. H 50, W 24, D 9 in.

In sharp contrast to “Masterworks,” the companion exhibition “Original voices” existed primarily in grayscale. Saunders explained that, he knew he wanted to show international emerging artists and his vision clearly involved a cohesive aesthetic. Matthew Cummings, a 2011 MFA grad from Illinois State University, Bloomington, uses a combination of hot, cold, and metal fabrication techniques to create sculptures that refer to “unseen” in scientific imagery. His “Specimen Studies” series are small glass sculptures that use Venetian techniques to create small models of scientific phenomenon such as microscopic images, optical illusions, and medical diagrams. His metal display cases which held the specimens echoed the false authority of a Josiah McElheny’s work. When asked about the role craft plays in his work, Cummings told the Hot Sheet, “I would like to say that craft is not important, but after you’ve worked with the material for ten years, it’s hard not to think about it.”

Kanako Togawa, a 2012 MFA graduate from Osaka University of the Arts, showed two ethereal engravings of nature scenes. Using a technique she developed rubbing ink into engraved cast glass, Togawa’s flower scenes have an illusionistic depth, as if the image sites somewhere below the surface of the glass. Seth Fairweather, a 2012 MFA grad from the Tyler School of Art, displayed an installation of hanging blown glass cylinders, with photos of forest silk screened onto them. The forms resembled tree trunks, and although the installation what a cramped in the small gallery space, you began to get the sense of an alternative perspective on a forest, being both inside and outside of it at once. Bruno Romanelli, a London based artist, showed massive layered castings. His work was sculptural, abstract, and plated with notions of light, and its potential within cast sculpture.

Editor’s Note: A full review of the exhibition will appear in the Winter 2012 print edition of GLASS (#129). Subscribe here.

—Kim Harty


“Masterworks” / “Original Voices”
Through October 19th, 2012
Ken Saunders Gallery
230 West Superior Street
Chicago, IL 60654
Tel. 312 573 1400

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.