Visual Caffeine: Exploring Art and Architecture with Avi Abrams, Issue 4
This is the fourth issue of our "visual caffeine concoctions" (read issues 1, 2, 3) - somewhat unpredictable forays into the history of art and architecture, coupled with mythology, culture and obsolete technology. For those of you who want an even larger dose of our visual caffeine, head over to Dark Roasted Blend, and get addicted to our endless stream of thrilling visual information.
Killer Viruses and Other Exceptional Glass Art
“Glass is transparent, hard to understand. It is formed from sand, fire and human breath — it is the cheapest material and yet the most magical.”
-- Dale Chihuly, glass sculptor
It is one thing to create something magical and beautiful using a glass medium, and quite another to convey the deadly efficiency and sheer subliminal terror of microscopic killing machines. Luke Jerram makes "viral" glass sculptures (pun intended): scientifically correct, detailed visualization of real viruses (corresponding to the latest in microbiology research at the University of Bristol). He is a masterful installation artist, who has found the perfect artistic form to represent the most unusual of subjects - spiky seismograph records, for example, (including a glass visualization of the 2010 earthquake in Japan), or even the ups and downs of the world stock markets.
Here are the Smallpox, Flu & HIV Virus glass sculptures, side by side, a trio of "beautiful hand grenades" (as one art critic put it) - menacing, delicate and sophisticated all at once:
A closer look at the Smallpox and Swine Flu viruses reveals a deadly intricacy - menacing for any living organism (see the full gallery for more):
Deadly viruses rendered in glass are sort of a guilty pleasure: they are safe to observe and cannot infect you. "Know your enemy"... so to speak. Here are Escherichia coli (commonly abbreviated E. coli) and HIV Human immunodeficiency virus. (Luke Jerram is a colour-blind installation artist... but these works do not seem to need colour to sufficiently chill our souls: they are appropriately sculpted as transparent, super-efficient, invisible machines):
On to a different subject: the ups and downs of the New York Stock Exchange and Dow Jones, carved in glass (see more here):
Why carve the Mexican border, you may ask? The Mexican Border is the most frequently crossed international border in the world, with approximately three hundred and fifty million (350,000,000) crossings per year - certainly worthy of a sculpture to make us think about such incredible migration.
Interestingly, these glass works are not the most extreme or unusual projects by Luke Jerram; the most amazing one is perhaps the The Sky Orchestra: "a series of performances in which hot air balloons fly over a city at dawn and broadcast music designed to turn the dreams of the sleeping public into an artistic experience."
Glass Sculptures to Inspire, to Illuminate, or Shimmer Their Way into Our Subconscious
Perhaps the most intriguing thing to note in the history of glass, is the lost secret of so-called flexible glass:
"A glassmaker was granted an audience with Emperor Tiberius (reigned 14-37 A.D.), presented him with a phiala (a shallow drinking vessel), asked the emperor to give it back, and then threw it on the floor. It did not break, but was dented, like a bronze vessel. The glassmaker took out a hammer and removed the dent. Tiberius asked him if anyone else knew how to make this kind of glass and, the glassmaker said "No," and the emperor had him beheaded. (source). Regardless of validity of this tale, glass can certainly be bent and blown into fantastic shapes, thanks to flameworking and torchworking techniques, a blend of natural fire and the artist's fired up creativity:
Robert Mickelsen's flameworked glass art is surreal and perfectly natural at once. The tangled-web complexity of glass strands evokes the microscopic order inside all matter, or maybe underlines "the fearful symmetry" of crystals - in any case, we are awed with the filigree precision of his craft:
Coming from Japan, here is a cool fossil-shaped stained glass piece (left) and another organic glass shape, by Tomai (top right image). On the bottom right is a tear-shaped "Northern Lights" marble piece:
Designed by Yoshiko Miyashita, the Shinjuku Eye was installed at Tokyo's Shinjuku station in 1969, and since then has observed myriads of passengers (the number of entries and exits per day at Shinjuku Station is almost 3.5 million people):
Speaking of stained glass ceilings and chandeliers, we simply have to mention this splendid piece in Barcelona's Palau de la Mùsica Catalana (organically growing out of the ceiling in accordance with Art Nouveau's minor obsession with mushroom shapes and alien-blob forms):
Stained Glass will never be the same once you wake up to the liberating possibilities of adding semi-precious stones and polished rocks into the pattern (like this beautiful glass and agate slices combination):
Layers of glass, holding bizarre 3D images inside their prismatic depths... trapping them like iridescent flies in amber
The frozen suspension of these surreal (and often disturbing) images is the work of 3D glass Chinese artist Xia Xiaowan... echoed by Canada based David Spriggs, who also uses multiple layers of clear glass to create rather abstract but no less epic installations:
Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend. This article appears simultaneously on Dark Roasted Blend and on "Out of Order" magazine - a Yale University print and online publication that curates innovative and bold fashion, art, music and film for the university set
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