Glass is undeniably ephemeral. It is a hard, brittle substance made by alchemy of flame and particles of earth; the correct formulation of this material can either shatter in an instant or hold a permanent placeholder in time. The art of glassmaking is a tradition with deep roots that has grown and sinewed into contemporary artwork. The four artists exhibiting their translations in Wexler Gallery’s most recent show have surpassed our modern-day interpretation of glasswork, creating vessels and sculptures that will further glass’s tradition, sharpen it, and continue to transcend that test of time.
Flux gets its name from from Fluxus, a ‘60s neo-Dada movement. The show combines the visions of four contemporary glass artists investigating the “resonating voice of glass”: the Philadelphia-based, technology-wielding Daniel Cutrone; mixed-media mastermind Aimee McNeel; the dramatic and conceptual Charlotte Potter; and Wes Valdez, an artist who translates visions of memento mon into the prisms of his work.
I was completely enraptured by Daniel Cutrone’s work. Cutrone marries methods of current-day technology and the artist’s touch in his futuristic glassworks, making the viewer wonder, how did he do that? The execution in Cutrone’s work is nothing short of masterful and clearly comes with a sort of daily dedication and a completely obsessive strive toward perfection. Perfection in glasswork, as artists and viewers alike know, is an extremely difficult (borderline impossible) task, but Cutrone’s wowrk approaches it.
From his series Objects of Desire emerges 3 views of Mount Everest, three balloonlike urns painted with a metallic, mirrorlike paint asymmetrically covering the top third of each vessel. At the bottom of each sits a different face of the same mountain: as we come in to view the different facades, we catch a reflection of ourselves in the mirrored exterior. The exterior, reminiscent of our very atmosphere, houses these tiny mountains and the reflective surface makes us seem almost godlike, flipping the idea that we are small next to mountains. The idea that we could be godlike and shatter the greatest mountain in the world makes us feel almighty and even powerful.
Mount Everest Inverted displays Cutrone’s technologically rendered mountain range (created through a time-consuming process of milling and negative/positive casting) fused with a sleek, hand blown zeppelinesque cask. The mountain range is suspended from the top of the piece, hanging over a small pool of water collected at the bottom of the urn. Viewing this piece from the top, the different grooves within the layers of glass come together, two dimensionally, to look like a fingerprint or a mapped-out terrain with all of the small lines tracing out lands and rivers. Similarly to 3 views, the viewer experiences a sensation of a godlike voyeurism. There’s a feeling of arctic chill and cool tones within this piece, almost as if it were naturally formed from ice, cast straight from a stream in the Himalayas.
A similar feeling is evoked by 3 views in Mount Everest in Black, a piece, as Cutrone puts it, “resonates in dream space.” And that cannot be further from the truth – Everest in Black is a lucid landscape radiating some sort of Middle-Earthen or intergalactic, inter-planetarium dream world. Further into 3 views’ godlike moments, Everest also creates a landscape of heaven and hell – the pristine milled Everest inverted at the top of the orb dangles above a deep, viscous pool of black, threatening to drop into an abyss at any given moment, a complete reflection on the world itself.
Wexler has housed some of Philadelphia’s most innovative and groundbreaking fine art and design work, which can often be starkly differentiated. Flux, and Cutrone’s work in particular, presents artists who transcend the process and definition of design, creating pieces that shatter the perception of what glasswork is, and can be. Glass is a material of the past that can be manipulated into forms of the future, and even further, can manipulate a viewer’s entire field of vision.
Above right, Mount Everest Inverted.