Its so clear that its opaque. So obvious that its inscrutable. So simple that it requires hundreds of attempts at a difficult technique. And if that seems a little too Zen, then just wait until you actually see Benjamin Moores new glass art at the Museum of Glass.
Because the master of minimalism has climbed new heights of simplicity of form, of color, of line and the works in Translucent challenge viewers to follow this monk-like path in reduction.
The room itself is uncomplicated, just four Lucite cases, each with two or three of the perfectly made vessels for which Moore is known, set against charcoal walls for maximum effect. Like a harmony implied by just two notes, each case shows a different technique in both vertical and horizontal with almost scientific disinterest.
A pioneer who brought traditional Venetian techniques back from the Venini factory and helped shape the Northwest Studio Glass movement, the internationally recognized Moore has been paring his style down for a while now, focusing on vessel forms that are, in his words, simple, clean, with strength. Now, though, even the barest hint of color is gone, the glass instead translucent white.
The Interior and Exterior Fold sets refine an ancient Roman technique of folding the molten glass out and back onto itself, creating a thick lip around the breaking point of the vessel. In the Interior Fold objects, the lip spreads wide and thin, like a Saturn ring, spiraled with a cane of white glass that gets ever paler as it expands from the center. The effect is graceful, otherworldly, mesmerizing.
The Exterior Fold vessels, on the other hand, become chunky, pragmatic, like the functional European glass that inspired them. Poised with perfect balance, they eschew any glimmer or shine with a Swedish blandness yet cast intricate shadows and light reflections that are far more interesting than the glass itself.
Finally, the Palla set hold within themselves the opaque ball (palla in Italian) that is pushed into the molten vessel during blowing. Nestled beneath an elongated spire or a flat disc, the palla sits oddly surreal, like an expectant egg.
According to the helpful video in the adjacent room that shows these tricky, almost ballet-like techniques, Moore makes hundreds of vessels for every one that actually makes the cut the rest get smashed for landfill. Its a high price for perfection, and the final result has the same kind of cold, perfect austerity.
What makes Translucent even more remarkable is the context. Its charcoal room hides in the middle of MoGs enormous gallery space like a kernel of emptiness in an outburst of experimentation. At the front are the wild, multihued works in the Mosaic Arts International, and around the back are works from MoGs fledgling collection that seem cherry-picked for the way they poke fun at Moores traditional lines. From Rik Allens undersea Cyclopes Hypernicus to Joseph Rossanos silvery Mirrored Murrelets, reincarnated from their skiff across the outside pool onto a wall backed by multicolor DNA bar codes; from Jen Eleks cheeky bent phallus protruding from the wall to April Sargents luscious engraving and René Roubiceks filigree-twined columns, this is glass that oozes out of your expectations and into a brave new world far, far away from Benjamin Moores pale white nirvana, and with a lot more joy.
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568