Featuring the work of 10 glass artists from around the country, as well as a ceramicist from Korea, the exhibit “Texture & Tension” at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery in Shadyside offers just what the title implies, gallery owner Amy Morgan says.
‘’These artists are all driven and creating complex works, all of which have a physical tension within them,” she says.
Combining glass with natural materials, such as stone and wood — even a petrified log — Weston Lambert’s work embodies the show’s theme perfectly.
Lambert lives and works in New Orleans where he is the professor of practice in the glass program at Tulane University. But it was the natural beauty he encountered on recent trips across the United States that inspired the body of work that he created for this show.
“Each piece incorporates textures, colors and materials that reference a specific region — color palettes from the Northwest, petrified wood from the Southwest and ambling topographical maps of Mississippi River in the South where I live,” Lambert says.
With half a dozen sculptures on display, as well as nearly a dozen “stones” made of glass and stone combined, it’s easy to see why Lambert says, “This series attempts to translate my observations and experiences into sculpture.”
The stones are especially intriguing and in tune with that notion, looking like you could pick up one anywhere along a hike. And yet upon closer observation, they look as if they come from another planet — one formed of molten lava and glass.
“With these, there is a tension between the stone and the glass,” Morgan says. “You can’t tell where the stone ends and the glass begins.”
Brooklyn-based artists Romina Gonzales and Edison Zapata show collaborative pieces that embody texture and tension in not only physical ways, but emotionally charged ones as well.
Gonzales of Peru and Edison Zapata of Venezuala work with clear glass canes that they fuse in a kiln. The result are works that create effective psychological tensions, which are further alluded to by the way they are displayed together here. For instance, Zapata’s heavy “Fused Pantalla: Black,” a solid mass of fused glass rods except for a split in the middle, is placed just beyond their collaborative piece, “Shattered,” which is a vessel form that appears at once cohesive and, yet, broken apart.
In the rear of the gallery, a multi-unit installation comprised of more than 30 cast-glass forms titled “Rediscovery — Never End” by Sungsoo Kim takes up nearly an entire wall.
Kim was born and raised in South Korea, and lives in Cleveland and teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Art and Kent Sate University. His work is unique in the studio glass world for its elements of re-use and recycling.
Each unit, or sculpture, was made from molds of Styrofoam packing material, cast in glass, then ground and sanded to perfectly smooth surfaces. But not every surface is smooth. Kim has left hints behind, places where you can see the familiar pattern of Styrofoam.
By a simple reframing of a common, expendable material like Styrofoam, the artist encourages a re-examination of objects around us. “In today’s society, we often think that if something has fulfilled its use, we should throw it away rather than try to find another use for it,” Kim says. “Yet, finding new uses for discarded objects is one way to breathe life back into objects around us.”
Then, there is the work of ceramicist Byul Go from South Korea, which is completely different than anything else in this exhibit, creating a dynamic tension altogether.
Each of her four pieces on display were inspired by organic forms found in nature, suggesting movement and growth and drawing the viewer in and out of negative space.
“I am deeply moved by seeds and cell structures,” she says, and it’s easy to see the connection when looking at “A Blue Lotus Seed,” which appears to be very much like the seed that inspired it, except for delightful splashes of colored glaze.
It’s interesting to note that Go’s sculptures also are much larger than the seeds and cells that inspired them.
“I drastically change the scale of my simple forms, making them larger and larger as my skill level increases,” says the recent Kent State grad, now back home in South Korea.
Through these simple forms, Go not only reflects upon notions of growth in nature, but she also hopes to communicate her own story of growth as an artist.
That’s why, she says, “I attempt to approach my ceramic works like a personal diary.” And, like each passing day, each is different, sometimes dramatically.
“Clay has been an avenue to express my inner thoughts and feelings, a refreshing experience for someone who considers herself a quiet, shy person.”
The remaining works are just as intriguing, making for a varied and pleasurable viewing experience altogether.
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org