Press & Media

“Gene Koss’s New Work,” New Orleans Art Review

LIKEABLE. GENE KOSS’S work is likeable. And I like looking at his work. Seeing how earlier themes continue to evolve, what new variations on the theme of, for example, Disc Drawings, have been developed, what new huge piece has taken form, and what new ideas have been added too the artist’s repertoire, as some idea are revisited and renewed, while others are new. This new exhibition at the Arthur Roger Gallery is no exception. Especially interesting is to see the new large work that the artist has conceived, Line Fence in this exhibit. Working with cast glass as his primary medium, which he often combines with various and sundry other materials and found objects, Koss’s work challenges whatever reservations one may have, with respect to a medium conventionally associated with utilitarian objects, about the viability of glass as a material for conceptual art. Combine Koss’s wit, expressed in titles evoking amusing associations that offer multiple paths for approaching the work, with the artist’s use of glass in ways unexpected by those unacquainted with its potential, and the confident craftsmanship of the mature artist produces work that represents a confluence of formal strength, humorous associations, and syntheses of multiple historical antecedents.

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“Sunrise: Recent Glass Sculpture,” Glass Quarterly

A surprising number of Midwestern artists have ended up in New Orleans over the years. Some became influential educators in local universities, where their work ethic set a certain tone even as their art often succumbed to the pervasive tropical surreality of their surroundings. Gene Koss, the founder of Tulane University’s glass program, exemplifies that work ethic, but his vision remains firmly rooted in the rural Wisconsin landscape, where he grew up on a family farm. His rural outlook can seem paradoxical from a fine arts perspective. Farming is hard work that requires great physical and emotional endurance, and generations of farm boys have looked to universities and the arts to escape the monotonous toil that defined the lives of their parents. Koss is a rare exception. His vision embraces the heartland ethos of soil, toil and tenacity, in works that can weigh more than eight tons and look as rugged as they are precisely constructed. Yet his single-minded pursuit of his unique vision has paid off, as his influence has only grown over the years. In an age when critical irony has become a default position in the art world, Koss celebrates not only the elemental physicality of the land and the people and machines that work it, but also their mythopoetic resonance.

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“Review: Bruce Jr. Does the Parades and Sunrise,” Gambit

Another Hurricane Katrina anniversary came and went, and once again global news organizations struggled to find new angles on an increasingly old story. This time, the BBC memorialized America’s megastorm by posting a video interview with New Orleans artist Dan Tague, whose prints of dollar bills folded into catchy messages like “Live Free or Die,” or, more darkly, “Trust No One,” were an indirect result of Katrina. Tague survived the floodwaters in Mid-City, where he used a pirogue to help stranded neighbors, but later found himself feeling aimless after the forced exodus. With his studio under water, he began folding dollar bills to pass the time. He eventually turned them into prints, which found their way into major museum collections, and the rest is history. The BBC piece is not only a great survivor story, it also provides an interesting angle on the role money plays in American culture.

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