Sculpting Glass


 A new show at Arthur Roger Gallery features two sculptors working with glass. Gene Koss and Stephen Paul Day have little else in common with the former related to the glass movement and the latter labeled as a post or metamodernist. However, categorizing their practice limits the impact of their idiosyncratic work revealed in the display of two massive sculptures complemented by a dozen of smaller ones for Gene Koss and a number of delicate pieces for Stephen Paul Day, making for a busy visit. 

Gene Koss “Ridge Road Climb (GKOS 0424)”, 2020

 2019-2020, a Brobdingnagian sculpture visible from the street fills the entire front gallery. The machine born from the artist’s imagination is reminiscent of heavy farm equipment, alluding to his upbringing in rural Wisconsin. Koss who started the Tulane University glass program, is known for his monumental public sculptures made of glass and steel. Looking back at his 45-year career, his practice reaches a climactic stage with this piece so huge that it requires some steps back to see it wholly. Walking around the mastodon helps connect with our inner child, overwhelmed by its dimensions, filled with awe. In the same room, shape and components (spring, fulcrum, wheel, fork) of a model, Bridge Series #2, 2010, give a cue to the artist’s inspiration for its giant clone. Crystalline, pure, soothing, decorative, refreshing, …, so many qualifiers come to mind when looking at the two-sided sculptures displayed along the rear gallery. They feature colored particles floating in glass like nebulae in a transparent sky or swirls in frozen water. Among the blue marine, turquoise, cobalt green, pale yellow, red COVID-19, 2020, stands out, like a device ready to explode. The Ridge Road Climb series provides an escape, a way to connect with nature from our desk or our living room. The clear rough surface of the man-made “mineral” evokes waves, precipices, glaciers, mountains, cascades, frozen lakes and more to the wandering mind. The closing piece Furrow, 2020, made of glass and steel, indestructible, stands like a final statement from the modern Vulcan.  

Stephen Paul Day “Sirène”, 2020

It takes a completely different mindset to visit the show from Stephen Paul Day Now She Sings, Now She Sobs, Now She Sings, in the adjacent gallery bathed in pink, black and white, the three colors of twenty-five or so sculptures laid on a white table or pedestals. This time the visitor is not overwhelmed by the size of the works but by their number (all made in 2020).  Bicephalic closed compositions like Lu Lu, Les Jumelles Roses, or pieces with embedded black and white photographs and/or pipes instead of anatomic parts, all require some time to absorb their narrative. Some sculptures offer a clear message like The Chain Done Broke, others are more cryptic like Eve. The content of the miniature apothecary jars set in a display reminiscent of cabinets of curiosities relates to New Orleans’s history: warped images of iconic buildings, trinkets, mementos, old photographs, objects, notes, plants, exude a whiff of nostalgia about times gone, some good, some bad. Heart of New Orleans, a frieze made with mirrors framed by the words “Now She Sings”, “Now She Sobs” like a mantra, sums up a show which is not only about the city but has become an homage to the great pianist Chick Corea who just passed. 

New Orleans, the city infused in music during good times and bad times, celebrations and funerals.       

Stephen Paul Day ” Heart of New Orleans” (detail), 2020

photographs by the author