Glassworkers' collaboration creates inventive objects
The exhibit “Halfway to Somewhere,” on display in the Hodge Gallery at Pittsburgh Glass Center in Friendship, features new collaborative pieces by glass artists Granite Calimpong and Brent Rogers that were the result of coming together twice as artists in residence at the center last year.
Calimpong of Seattle and Rogers of Chicago were artists in residence at Pittsburgh Glass Center in April 2013 and returned in October 2013 to pursue the recent body of work that is included in the show.
The exhibit also features independent works by each artist. Calimpong's work is generally blown and coldworked glass that is simple and clean with a focus on the form and surface. Rogers' work, on the other hand, focuses more on content rather than form. He often uses imagery, lamination and painting on glass.
Because of their two distinct styles, Calimpong says that there was a lot of “meeting in the middle on decision-making” during production of the works. “We were trying to find a combination of processes and a product that was entirely new to us,” he says.
Thus, some of the results are recognizable forms with unexpected tops and materials, as with cone-shaped “Split,” or vase-like forms in “Ducked” and “In the Pocket,” and some forms are a little less recognizable and have no defined top or bottom as in “Other Side Envy” and “Missed a Spot.”
Although they live now in different cities, Calimpong and Rogers used to share studio space in Seattle and work together regularly. “We applied jointly for the residency in 2012 in an attempt to reconnect, explore some new ideas in glass, individually and collaboratively, and concentrate for a dedicated period of time on making our art,” Calimpong says. “We both work in glass in various capacities but rarely have the luxury of dedicating extended periods of time exploring our own work.”
Calimpong says their joint residency at Pittsburgh Glass Center afforded them just that. “In April, we came with a few ideas and began experimenting,” Calimpong says. “We made a lot of work and found new and interesting ways of creating the work.
“Much of what we did during that month did not end up in the show, but by the end of April we had created ‘Split' and ‘In the Pocket,' which we were very excited about and were the catalysts for the rest of the collaborative work that is in the show.
“This series of work is created in multiple steps with various processes, new and old, coming into play,” Calimpong says. “For each piece, we had to create sheet glass to match the colors and character of the blown portions.”
This was done by blowing cylinders of colored glass that were later opened up in a kiln and flattened out into sheets. Shapes were then cut in the sheets either by hand on a ring saw or through the waterjet cutting process.
“We then laminated (with clear epoxy) the sheets to the blown forms and when the epoxy was set, ground the sheets flush to the blown piece and brought (it) back to a polish,” Calimpong says.
The desire was to make work that was not achievable through traditional glassblowing processes seem natural or look natural; to make objects that would force the viewer to wonder what they were and how they were created.
“Admittedly, you would probably have at least some background with glass to wonder about the production of the work or to know that it could not be created in a traditional way of working. So, in a way, this work is catering to an initiated audience,” Calimpong says.
Ultimately, Calimpong says,the collaborative work is about process. “Brent and I were both trained in Seattle by a number of today's best practicing glass artists. We learned numerous methods and techniques by many great artists. This work is a direct result of our cumulative prior experience.”
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.