Ned Cantrell wrote to me this morning, in response to something I'd said about this year's SOFA Chicago. He said something I've felt for some time about the world of glass sculpture - that the exhibitions at SOFA are underwhelmingly (is that a word? no, I'm not quoting him) short of contemporary expression, and that glass world seems often to be out of touch with tendencies in the art world. True, how true, especially when viewers are dazzled by booth after booth of polished cast work in lead glass by artists from New Zealand, Eastern Europe and China...I fully agree with Ned and support this thought with a nod to work carried by Silica Galleries, a novice participant at this year's SOFA. The works they showed possess a ton of youthful expression, and the artists seem skilled and interested in creating work that is meaningful. This is so important - for glass sculpture to grow and continue to be accepted as a medium in fine art, refinements of its use as an expressive medium needs to grow as technical mastery is now an accepted standard. The image above is Ned's "Cherub" (blown glass and mixed media, approx. 6 x 6 x 3 in.), 2008.
Okay, speaking about favorites here, since we don't seem to be pulling any punches...aside from the works we presented (!), my other favorite works were by an imported local confederate, Clifford Rainey (shown at left, "Philosophical Boy - Job No. 4" [glass, ceramic apple, wire, pins, gesso, maple plinth. 43.5 x 19 x 15, installed including base], 2005). I heard Mr. Rainey speak at the Glass Art Society conference in Portland, Oregon, last summer. He explained that his glass sculpture is a filtered chronicle of ideas and visual iconographies gleaned from his many travels. The works are acquired points of reference, that (after hearing him speak) are enriched by Mr. Rainey's native European penchant of the double entendre and complicated cultural convergences ... nice. I also enjoyed the newbrow/lowbrow aspect of Joshua Opdenaker's work, image left: "Blackened Chicken Skewer" (glass, 26.5 x 12 x 13 in.) 2008, and Gregory Nangle's, "Take Everything" (glass + bronze, 23 x 8 x 8 in.) 2008, image right. Sit up everyone and take notice of these guys, they have fun, they are good, and their work is very very cool.
Next up for Ned in the US is a group show "Ashes to Ashes" with the Contemporary Arts Centre of Virginia. Good luck, Ned, and stay warm in Denmark!