Pasatiempo - - Art In Review - — Michael Abatemarco

In­ner and Outer Space ... the Vi­sion­ary Land­scapes of Josh Simp­son, Jane Sauer Gallery, 652 Canyon Road, 995-8513; through April 5

Glass is a fluid, mer­cu­rial, and volatile sub­stance. Not un­like clay, it re­lies on an el­e­ment of chance in its trans­for­ma­tion from raw sub­stance to work of art. Some glass artists ac­cen­tu­ate these char­ac­ter­is­tics of glass in their work, and Josh Simp­son is one of them. Jane Sauer Gallery presents sev­eral of his func­tional and sculp­tural works in a show called In­ner and

Outer Space ... the Vi­sion­ary Land­scapes of Josh Simp­son. This col­lec­tion of works takes tra­di­tional forms — plat­ters, vases, bowls, and globes — and presents them as mi­cro­cosms of ter­res­trial and cos­mic worlds.

Pieces from Simp­son’s Corona Plat­ter se­ries are on view, each bear­ing vi­brant swirling col­ors like the volatile at­mos­phere of a dis­tant gas gi­ant.

Blue New Mex­ico Corona Plat­ter stands out among them for the rich­ness of its blue hue as well as for the depth of its ap­pear­ance. Simp­son’s sig­na­ture floats within it like a grace­ful ser­pent drift­ing through blue waters, its shadow glimpsed just be­low. The pieces in his In­hab­ited Vases se­ries also have depth, ac­cen­tu­ated by a lay­er­ing tech­nique the artist uses in or­der to cre­ate the il­lu­sion of vast land­scapes con­tained within ves­sel forms.

All of Simp­son’s work is blown glass, even the globes that ap­pear to draw inspiration from the look of our home planet as seen from space.

Me­ga­planet #9.2.07 is one such globe. It is ac­tu­ally a se­ries of con­cen­tric mar­ble-like forms that pro­vide a sense of lay­ered at­mos­pheres sur­round­ing a world of teem­ing life.

In Simp­son’s Tek­tite Por­tal se­ries, the artists takes the idea of a self­con­tained land­scape fur­ther by plac­ing a vi­sion of or­ganic forms within a blue, wa­tery en­vi­ron­ment in­side a geode­like struc­ture: an en­tire ocean con­tained within a small rock. An­other se­ries of tek­tite sculp­tures in­cluded in the show seems to draw inspiration from the beauty of mother-of-pearl oys­ter shells, but the pieces are equally sug­ges­tive of alien life forms trans­ported in me­te­orites. The tek­tite sculp­tures hardly re­sem­ble blown glass, and it prob­a­bly wouldn’t be your first guess as to their medium.

Many of the ob­jects in In­ner and Outer Space rest on mir­rored sur­faces that al­low you to see the con­trasts be­tween their in­te­rior and ex­te­rior sur­faces. The plat­ters, tek­tite sculp­tures, and bowls are an­gled to al­low the viewer to more eas­ily see in­side them, which is help­ful, par­tic­u­larly in the case of the tek­tite pieces whose ex­te­ri­ors have a rough, rock­like tex­ture com­pared with the smooth, opales­cent in­te­ri­ors. En­ter­ing the space is like walk­ing into a gallery of nat­u­ral won­ders — like a fos­sil gallery or a room of pre­cious stones. Simp­son’s sculp­tures are the first thing you see upon en­ter­ing the gallery, and the light­ing seems de­signed to make an im­pres­sion. Sculp­tures like these, par­tic­u­larly the large plat­ters whose swirled sur­faces cap­ture light in a way that al­most makes them ap­pear to spin, do some­thing mag­i­cal with light. It is a cru­cial el­e­ment and en­hances one’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

Josh Simp­son: Me­ga­planet #9.2.07, 2007, glass, 8.5 inches in di­am­e­ter; right, Tek­tite Sculp­ture #1.39.04, 2004, glass, 7.5 x 11 x 9 inches

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