Pittsburgh Glass Center premieres new display
Visitors flocked to the Pittsburgh Glass Center (PGC) last Friday night for the opening of the Halfway to Somewhere exhibit by resident artists Granite Calimpong of Seattle and Brent Rogers of Chicago.
The exhibit is a result of the six-week residency at the PGC between Calimpong and Rogers, who first met in 2013. Halfway to Somewhere is marked most notably by the striking contrast between the styles of the two artists.
Calimpong, according to his website, originally from Northern California and more recently from Seattle, grew up as the son of a potter and was introduced to glass as an artistic medium in college at the University of California, San Diego. Rogers, born and raised in Seattle but currently living in Chicago, educated himself in glass and illustration at the Pratt Fine Art Center and Pilchuck Glass School. He was also an intern at Benjamin Moore, Inc., according to the PGC website.
Calimpong’s glasswork is both blown and cold worked — glass that, as the name implies, is shaped with tools like sanders and tile saws rather than the high heat of glassblowing. Calimpong’s work looked more like the traditional vases and jugs that one might expect to see at a glass exhibition, while Rogers’s work was much more abstract.
Many of Calimpong’s pieces were more traditional forms with some distinguishing, more modern characteristics. Calimpong created, for example, vases that looked like ordinary round-bottomed vases, but with the middle third cut out. According to the statement on his website, Calimpong “strives to exhibit work that exhibits balance and clarity of form. Whether the work is tight and symmetrical or loose in its manifestations, I am dedicated to creating glass that is carefully considered, cleanly executed, and exhibits the attention to detail that I employ during every step of the process.”
Calimpong’s pieces were, as the artist said, clean and symmetrical, while Rogers’s work was clean but usually anything but symmetrical. Rogers’ pieces don’t fall into any kind of category of vase that most viewers would recognize. Instead, Rogers makes use of different techniques like painting, lamination, and flocked glass to convey his ideas about “rejection, acceptance, and failure,” according to the PGC website.
Rogers’ pieces were often difficult to interpret, such as a white, wall-mounted rectangle with a diamond-shaped cutout and blue, angled glass pipes running through it. Some, however, clearly embodied the cyclical human process of creation, such as three rectangular pillars, each containing a pit of smooth glass — one white, one gray, and one so black that at first it is difficult to tell that it is an indentation, rather than a black mark, on the surface of the pillar.
The strongest pieces of the exhibition came from collaboration between Rogers and Calimpong, such as a sleek red, bullet-shaped piece of glass with a black hole on its flat front, and a series of what looked like crushed, bent glass cylinders with patterns on either end.
Often, the hard-line contrast between Calimpong’s and Rogers’ works gave the exhibit a lack of coherency; it was hard to glean a theme or message from work that hailed from two completely different planes of the aesthetic spectrum.
While the individual pieces clearly showed the skill and glass-working master of Calimpong and Rogers, too often, looking at two subsequent pieces of the exhibition was more likely to leave viewers disoriented rather than enlightened, between the abstract bright and solid colors of Rogers’ work and Calimpong’s semi-opaque, smooth vases.
Halfway to Somewhere will be on view at the PGC through Apr. 20, 2014.