Friday, January 12, 2018

Brain Appeal

Michael E. Taylor Traversing Parallels at Museum of Glass
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Jan. 11, 2018
“Artificial Intelligence Codes/Rosetta Stone,” glass and wood by Michael E. Tylor, photo courtesy of the artist.
There are two large exhibitions at Museum of Glass that seem to have been chosen as companion shows which contrast and complement one another interestingly. Albert Paley’s glass and steel sculptures, reviewed last week in this column, are visually impressive, while Michael E. Taylor’s Artificial Intelligence Codes/Rosetta Stone appeals more to the intellect. This is not to say that Taylor’s work is not also visually appealing. It is simply not as strong aesthetically as Paley’s work. Instead, it is conceptually fascinating. It appeals to the brain and makes the brain work while still being nice to look at.
Taylor is an analytical artist. His work reflects on and responds to science, art history, philosophy and current events. According to a museum press release, “Whether inspired by formal quality of geometry, the Higgs boson particle, or the moral implications of artificial intelligence, Taylor’s work is ultimately about investigation.” The statement goes on to say, “Taylor is widely-renowned for his cut and laminated glass works, geometric constructions inspired by everything from subatomic particles to music.”
As an artist and critic thoroughly grounded in aesthetic formalism, I confess that I might not get everything he is saying in his work from a mathematical, scientific or philosophical point of view. In terms of the formal elements of color and form, his work is classical and pleasing to the eye. He works a lot with stacked or side-by-side geometric shapes and a lot of repetition with predominantly rectangular blocks of laminated glass that are either colorless and clear or filled with rainbow colors. They are prismatic, and the forms and colors change as the viewer walks around them to view them from different angles.
One of the more fascinating and humorous pieces in this show is called “Cultural Crisis Cabinet for the Critically Misinformed.” It is a clear glass cabinet with a number of shelves inside. On each shelf stands an army of clear glass bottles filled with variously colored liquids. It could conceivably be water with food coloring, but a wall label explains that the bottles are filled with such fluids as antifreeze, brake fluid, cleaning solutions and other chemicals. Floating in the liquid like scientific specimens are such things as tiny doll hands, flowers, starfish and flowers. And each jar is labeled: “cynicism,” “objectivity,” “scientific method,” “theology,” “existence,” and so forth. It is not clear whether these labels signify the cultural crises of the title or if they are the cure for such cultural crises.
Along one wall is a complex and seemingly random montage of notes, drawings, photographs and clippings from magazines —the stuff of Taylor’s studio, which cascades off the wall and onto the floor, and which lends clues as the artist’s way of thinking and working. Yes, this is a thinking person’s art exhibition.
Michael E. Taylor Traversing Parallels, Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., through May 12, 2018, $5-$15, free to members, free Third Thursday, Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St. Tacoma, (866) 468-7386] 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Glass and steel fused together

The sculptures of Albert Paley at Museum of Glass
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Jan. 4, 2018
“Horizontal Passage,” steel and glass by Albert Paley, courtesy Museum of Glass
I was truly impressed by Complementary Contrasts: The Glass and Steel Sculptures of Albert Paley at Museum of Glass, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Prior to visiting this show, I had seen only photographs of Paley’s work, which is much more powerful when seen in person. Photographs do not come close to capturing the scale, color nuances and textures of his steel and glass sculptures. When two of the largest galleries at MOG are filled with his massive sculptures, it can be overwhelming, so I advise viewers to give themselves plenty of time to study each piece up close and to take in the large group as a beautiful world of form and color.
Paley’s sculptures are large, but not gigantic, averaging around three-by-four-by-five feet in dimension but looking much more massive than their actual size. They create the feel, if not the actual appearance, of huge metal and glass machines such as locomotives barreling down the tracks, or of animals or humans wrestling with one another. There is a tremendous sense of movement —unrelenting, fast movement such as in the art of the Italian futurism movement of the early 20th century combined with the massiveness of John Chamberlain’s sculptures created from wrecked cars.
The term “complementary contrasts” in the show’s title perfectly describes the major emphasis of Paley’s sculpture. "Glass pairs beautifully with steel because it creates a dialogue of opposites. The contour, clarity and color of glass — metal responds to that. I want to literally fuse them together. I have always like that idea: yin and yang, a sense of unity," Paley wrote.
As an artist and a critic, I have always held that unity within variety or the balance or blending of opposites is a hallmark of great art, and these principles are at the heart of Paley’s art. Glass is clear, transparent, fragile; steel is hard, opaque, unbreakable. Opposites in every way. In Paley’s sculpture these opposites clash like warriors in battle, and yet they become indistinguishable in places. The glass is not always and everywhere transparent and fragile in appearance; in some of these works the glass is as opaque and solid in appearance as the steel, which in some places appears as pliable as slabs of leather. The first piece to greet the eye when entering the gallery is “Divide,” a piece that epitomizes the duality and contrasts of all the works. It is broken into two halves with abstract, tubular forms on each side that look like some kind of steampunk machine being carried on a flat-bed rail car which also looks like a skateboard made of a flat slab of steel resting on cylindrical rollers.
Also remindful of a flat-bed rail car is “Split Relationship,” twisted sheets of flat steel and rectangular glass blocks stacked in a V shape on the top. It can be seen as two forms or figures, similar but contrasting, as the forms in “Divide,” or as a single object or figure being split asunder by the V-shaped glass. The glass is clear but solid and heavy, while the steel is luminescent with sparkling red ochre and purple colors.
In addition to the many sculptures, the walls are filled with loose and energetic studies in pencil and graphite, showing that Paley is as competent with two dimensions as with three.
Also on display at MOG is a show of glass art by Michael E. Taylor which is conceptual and luminous and based in large part on science and math.
Complementary Contrasts: The Glass and Steel Sculptures of Albert Paley, Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., through September 3, 2018, $5-$15, free to members, free Third Thursday, Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St. Tacoma, (866) 468-7386]