'MASS CAST' molded by Massachusetts artists

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STOCKBRIDGE — According to Schantz Galleries Director Jim Schantz, you can break down the process of working with glass sculpture into five areas: flame-working, fusing, blowing, casting and cutting.

The latter two processes forged "MASS CAST," a new show at the Stockbridge space, which opens Saturday, Oct. 6, and features works by William Carlson, Robin Grebe, Sidney Hutter and Martin Rosol. All of these artists hail from Massachusetts, which isn't coincidental.

"We wanted to do a show that was more regional, focusing more on artists in the area," said Schantz, whose multi-floor gallery often exhibits pieces by internationally renowned artists such as Dale Chihuly and Lino Tagliapietra.

To narrow the show's scope, the gallery only picked artists who frequently work in cast and cut glass. Casting is accomplished using a kiln and a mold, typically a clay or plaster one.

"The glass is melted in the kiln, and it will become the form of the mold," Schantz said.

Cutting glass, or coldworking, frequently involves glass that some gallerygoers' eyes know very well.

"In many cases, [glass artists] get commercially made optical glass that's used for lenses," Schantz said. "It's a very pure form of glass. It's cut using a diamond saw and then ground and polished. And then it can be laminated with — there's a glass epoxy that became available actually back in the '80s, and it was developed for NASA. Apparently, it was originally used for adhering tiles to the space shuttle. This is a molecular bond; it's actually stronger than the glass itself, and these artists have been using it now for over 30 years."

The four artists in "MASS CAST" have all been represented by the gallery for decades, long before Schantz and his wife, Kim Saul, took full ownership of the space in 2009. Carlson is based in Sandisfield; he often creates large-scale pieces that pair glass with stone.

"A lot of my work has been about glass, but not strictly glass," said Carlson, whose pieces have been exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others.

His works at Schantz are considerably smaller but still represent this combination of materials, including in "Construct Series."

"The structure's built from glass and the granite components, rather than strictly working with a transparent material, which is very seductive," Carlson said. "If you think of glass blowing, it's quite a seductive process. That's the magic of heat and gravity and all of that. My work has been much more about the building of interiors and structures that talk about the logic of engineering and, I think, the aesthetics of materials."

In the past, he said that his teaching career at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the University of Miami, where he was the chair of the department of art and art history, helped his artistry. Now, it's his natural surroundings in the rustic southern Berkshire town sparking his inventiveness.

"I have a certain amount of isolation and an ability to create stuff out of the ambiance of the location rather than the demand of the institution," he said.

Martin Rosol is based in Shelburne Falls and has had his art displayed at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y., and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. The Czechoslovakia native had been trained in coldworking before arriving in the U.S. in the late 1980s. He assisted a glass artist in New York and eventually settled in Massachusetts. Though he said his green surrounds haven't influenced his pieces in the show, they may have affected the works' names; the "Calla" series references a calla lily.

"It's very far from that plant, from that flower, but it's just a name that stuck with me for that piece," he said. "Those sculptures, I really made from several pieces of glass and polished, [ground them] together and assembled with epoxy."

The "Calla" works are often rounded, playing with reflection.

"For me, basically, the shape is the most important part. The color and everything else around [it], that's just secondary," he said.

Sidney Hutter's vase forms dazzle with color.

"They use the reflective and refractive qualities of the glass, and some of them have either a color pigment in the laminations, or there's an effect pigment which might be something that has a sparkle-type quality to it," said Hutter, whose pieces occupy institutional collections around the world.

The Newton artist's laminated plate-glass sculptures aren't functional vessels, but viewers probably won't mind. They may be too busy reconsidering their preconceptions about volume and form as they examine Hutter's art.

"They don't have any purpose but to be," Hutter said of the works.

Cape Cod-based Robin Grebe's creations often take a human shape but represent a broader perspective, such as in "Window of Sky."

"A lot of my work has a figure with a window in it, and it's kind of looking into the interior life or world within us," said Grebe, who has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design and Pilchuck Glass School. "Usually, what I put in there is something about nature, and it's about this connection to the larger world and the metaphor of our bodies to the world."

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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