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ORIGINAL VOICES 2015

April 3 - May 31, 2015

Eric Cruze + Tomo Sakai

Jon Goldberg

Tyler Kimball

Wesley Neal Rasko

Sarah Vaughn

Michelle Knox

230 West Superior Street Chicago, IL 60654 | T 312.573.1400 | gallery@kensaundersgallery.com

This year’s iteration of Original Voices features a diverse group of artists, each pursuing the development of a body of work that is characterized by a unique approach to form and concept. Artists Tyler Kimball and Jon Goldberg employ traditional techniques to create compelling and unexpected forms while Neal Wesley Rasko explores the possibilities that still exist for reconsidering the large cast objects that we associate with the Czech glass. Sarah Vaughn focuses on image, her small cast objects of female figures evoking characters from somber narratives. Eric Cruze and Tomo Sakai bring a decidedly cool aesthetic to spare, subtle objects that are influenced by Carlo Scarpa and Asian culture.

 

Jon Goldberg represents the best of the Maker aesthetic that pervades the studio glass movement. The beguiling beauty of the material is combined with the brutal tragedy of glass working, where every slip is life or death. After embarking on a career in computer programming the artist found himself living across the street from a new gallery in Philadelphia, where he found inspiration in the work of artists like Mark Peiser and Richard Ritter. The patient guidance of Vitrum Gallery associate Mora Shenker encouraged Goldberg to explore glass working at a public access facility. After six one-evening-a-week classes it was “game over” according to Goldberg, who “always finds surprises, something new in the glass” in his continuing explorations of “the internal volume of internal space.” The artist’s formal studies have mainly been done in the studio at Corning with artists like Martin Rossol who influenced Goldberg’s focus on developing his own unique creative process. Goldberg cites “the semi-random compositions seen in nature” as visual inspiration for his hot and cold worked glass sculptures.

 

At this point in his career Tyler Kimball is hustling for Visiting Artist gigs and Residencies at Universities and Art Centers across the country. In 2014 the artist traveled to Washington, Utah and Ohio where he blew glass, conducted workshops and instructed young students of the arts. All this wandering has inspired nostalgia in the artist’s work; Tyler explains that his humorous Pop creations recall Oldenburg’s Shuttlecocks-which are scattered about the grounds of his hometown of Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum-as well as simpler times, summers with family and the carefree recreation of lawn games. Shuttlecocks and the accouterments of badminton serve as the source of the artist’s imagery for this exhibition. Applying strict control in his technique with the glass the artist takes advantage of the glass’s feathery transparency to evoke lightness in his out-of scale creations. The artist arouses a variety of responses with works that are humorous, hugely decorative and imbued with a dusty longing for iced lemonade in the backyards of our youth.

 

Michelle Knox left New Jersey to attend Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire where she discovered the hot shop while pursuing her studies in Environmental Science. In 2000 she was accepted into the prestigious glass program at the California College of Arts in Oakland led by Clifford Rainey. Rainey strove to teach professionalism to his students and direct them towards the use of the glass as an artistic outlet. An athlete growing up, Knox relished the fast paced physicality of the medium and wasn’t intimidated by the rigors of the studio. As her work developed Knox found inspiration in Dan Clayman’s sense of scale and the way that space could be manipulated in large-scale installations. She remains fascinated by the way artists like James Turrell and Richard Serra insist that the viewer navigate the space their work inhabits. In the gallery, Knox’s installation of tall blown glass sculptures invite viewers to physically engage with the work and the space they occupy.

 

Wesley Neal Rasko describes the evolution of his work as an ongoing voyage of discovery and self-awareness. After growing up and studying in his native Canada the artist relocated to the Czech Republic to apprentice in the studio of Bohumil Eliaš. For a year Rasko worked with the Master and received for his efforts an education that was unique in its depth and scope. Elias didn’t just impart a deep understanding of glass-making and glass-working but the artist also served as a mentor, friend, confident and even father-figure who provided an example for the his young protégé of how to act as an artist, make art his vocation and his life. Rasko employs casting and cold working techniques that have been the hallmark of Czech glass. His sculptures are often laminated constructions that include not only colored glass but also stone that is ground and polished to create soft, luxuriantly smooth surfaces.

 

Tomo Sakai was born in Nagoya, Japan. She met New Yorker Eric Cruze in the Kamenicky Senov, Czech Republic while he was studying casting and cold work with Frantisek Janak and she was studying engraving with Peter Rath. Sakai was exposed to glass working in high school and when she attended Tama University in Tokyo it was among the very first University Art Departments in Japan to have a glass program. Eager to expand her skills in glass-working Sakai enrolled in a summer workshop in Frauenau, Germany and then spent the next 5 years in the Czech Republic studying engraving techniques with masters in various studios including Jiri Harcuba. In conversation she recalls, “Glass was so new, so open”.  Her choice of imagery goes back to her early travels to the Czech Republic and the homesickness she has endured while spending her life away from home.

 

Eric Cruze also studied and worked in the Czech Republic. After studying architecture Cruze left that practice after ten years and spent 4 years at the Appalachian Center for Craft studying glass working.  He cites Carlo Scrapa and glass murrini as early fascinations. Cruze is moved by the way that glass “records the heat, creating a beautiful record of that transformation that takes place in the kiln.”  It was in 2005 that his pursuit of training and education led him to Janak in the Czech Republic where he met Sakai. They were married in 2007, in Nagoya, Japan.  The two founded and operated a glass studio in Gifu, Japan in 2007 but then re-located to Boston area in 2011.

 

The artists describe their collaborations as producing three distinct bodies of work; one that is hers, one his and one that they create together. They have “separate focuses and overlapping interests”.  He looks to bring a “modern sensibility to a traditional craft” while her vision includes combining tradition and technique to create modern works in a very contemporary medium.

 

Sarah Vaughn was raised in Olney, IL and currently resides in St. Louis, MO. She creates evocative figurative sculptures that the artist describes as autobiographical. The simply presented female forms are laden with mystery and quiet, intense emotion. Often a feeling of loss or sadness or resignation permeates the object or tableau.  Sarah mentions her two grandmothers as influential figures; one a close confidant and one Sarah never met, but whose old dusty bottle collection was the surprise discovery that initially sparked the artist’s interest in glass. Sarah cites as artistic influences Carmen Lozar, Sybille Peretti and Joanne Teasdale not only because of the quality of their work but also because they have inspired in Vaughn the courage to create uncompromising work and to imagine leading an uncompromising life.

 

This catalogue documents the third installment of the Original Voices exhibition series, which seeks to present work by artists working in glass that are new, young or underexposed. The work in this exhibition, varied as it is, offers visitors the opportunity to understand the formal and conceptual issues artists are grappling with as they push the medium of glass in new and unexpected directions.

 

Ken Saunders, 2015