On view through the summer at Schantz Galleries in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is an exhibition of new work from Richard Royal, one of the pioneers of the Studio Glass movement. Three years in development, Royal’s latest body of work is a geometric series that achieves a larger scale and features a commanding palette of primary colors. After 11 years of developing a process and system, Royal’s geometric series is playful but structurally complex, with titles offering homages to famous figures in art and architecture.
Royal uses a unique mold-blown technique which allows him to construct large-scale pieces through modular molds, dealer Jim Schantz told the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet in a telephone interview. This process, which took years to develop, came out of a natural way of building, and draws from various geometric aspects of nature.
Royal started this process of gluing larger pieces of glass together eleven years ago, which he said he came to after noticing geometric patterns in nature. “Pretty soon you start looking around and see all this geometry,” Royal said in a telephone interview with Glass. Taking note from the systematic process used in nature, Royal created organic forms through geometry, combining rigidity and spontaneity.
“It takes a long time to glue these together, it could take weeks to make a piece, which means I’m always working on several at a time,” Royal told Glass in a telephone interview. Due to this lengthy process, Royal said he approaches work in a “contemplative, intuitive way.”
This specific technique gives Royal the freedom to build, assemble, and design a piece over a longer time frame. “He’s really enjoying this process where he can design sculpturally,” Schantz said. The drama that stems from large-scale work is not unique to Royal— Dale Chihuly, for example, has worked on a larger scale for years, and with bright colors — but, “Richard has developed a way of working that is quite different in its approach,” Schantz said.
Specifically, the large scale of the pieces work to engage the environment and architecture, going beyond the mere physicality of an object on a pedestal.
“He has made that jump from the pedestal to the entire room environment with this work because of the scale and the freedom it affords him to relate to the space,” Schantz said.
While Royal has been an influential glass blower, especially in the glass community in Seattle, his latest evolution has taken his work in a promising new direction.
The large scale of the work in itself allows Royal to “investigate sculpture,” Schantz said, which is evident in pieces such as Geo Calder Homage, which is constructed from variously colored pyramidal forms. The work shows the freedom of movement and ideas new techniques afforded Royal. By emphasizing form throughout, the work creates a layered narrative for how structure can emerge foremost.
Working mostly with primary colors throughout the "Fractal" series, there is a pure and amusing character to the works. In Ode to Mondrian, Royal takes note from the reductive elements in painter Mondrian’s work, which was simplistically constructed of primary colors and geometric shapes, just like in Royal’s work.
The primary color palette found in the geometric series was used to emphasize the forms and sculptural elements. “I didn’t want to lose sight of forms by splashing color on the work,” Royal said.
Referencing Ode to Mondrian, Royal said that, while he tries to have some sort of historical influence, he wants to bring fresh ideas forth.
Working on a large scale is riskier, involving more time and resources than a smaller scale would. While a bigger investment, working larger has afforded Royal opportunity to let elements like structure and color take over the pieces. “Royal found his way to enter into the world [of large-scale work].”
Royal’s work loosely constructs a narrative of free movement and colorful exploration. The spontaneity in the investigation of shape as well as the simplified color palette brings forth fluidity and purposeful movement through space.
Yet, the geometric series has not reached completion. Royal said there’s still more to find in geometry, and he’s going to push forward to see what’s next. “Where it takes me I’m not really sure,” Royal said. “I keep trying to change things up.” Revisiting processes from the 1980s, Royal said he’s repurposing past ideas to see how it can meet his geometric techniques.
IF YOU GO:
Through summer 2019
3 Elm Street