May 11, 2001
Exhibit clearly compels
Glass constructions cast new light on art
Light. Transparency. Geometrics. All three have been important ingredients in art in one way or another for centuries, but New York artist Melissa Kretschmer has found ways to combine them that is both innovative and quietly striking.
Her medium is glass, that wonderful, see-through material that plays a host of roles from humble ornage-juice bottles to the glorious colored windows in Chartres Cathredral, which stand among the great creations of the Middle Ages.Most artist working in this medium heat glass to a molten state and then mold it to create their desired forms, but Kretschmer uses standard sheets of glass and constructs her works by stacking and "painting" them.
The results possess a surprising complexity and ligering visual impact.
Eighteen of Kretschmer's painted constructions are on view through June 3 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, along with an exhibition of work by Udo Noger and a group installation by five recent graduates of the University of Colorado at Boulder's master of fine arts program.
About half of Kretschmer's pieces were created on site for this show, and each is composed of sheets of glass about 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide, which lean on each other against the walls.
A characteristic example is "Colovivo," which consist of three sheets of glass that are partially spread apart as they lean against the wall. On each is a series of white rectangles loosely rendered with papaffin and beeswax, which overlap and interlock when the sheets are placed above each other.
The lights above and in front of the piece shine through, casting shadows from the overall sgeets of glass and the "painted" rectangles, and these shadows add yet another dimension to the overall effect.
Unlike a standard painting or sculpture, viewers do not look at this work-- they have the rare opprotunity to actually look through it. When seen in this fashion, the imagery has an elusive, amorphous depth, and the whole work exudes a minmalist elegance.
As engaging as the works are up close, they take on an even more compelling quality when seen from across the room. The subtly rendered colors and shapes seem to hover, transfixed in a kind of meditative space.
The other pieces of this size have essentially the same structure and offer nuanced yet significant variations in the geometric imagery and colors, which are always hues of white, black and gray, the latter created with tar and printing ink.
The rest of the show is composed of considerably smaller pieces, which are mounted on the wall. These consist of multiple sheets of glass that have been glued together, with thinly sliced sheets* of beeswax and paraffin sandwiched between them.
"Parafurl," which is about 5 inches tall and 10 inches wide, consists of 14 sheets of glass. Carefully arranged in stair-step fashion is a series of wax strips that form a kind of wave that seems to move left to right and up and down within the piece.
Another of these wall pieces, "Paraglyph," which is about 16 inches square, has a black square in the middle, and the wax and paraffin are arranged in stair-stepped half-squares on each side of it.
This imagery, which is tighter, more contained and more rigidly geometric than that in the larger pieces, has a definite op-art quality in the way that it energizes and even deceives the eye.
These, like the larger pieces, emply a monochromatic color scheme. But here and in all the selections, the green tint of the glass, a
natural effect of the way it is manufactured, adds an unavoidable and not unwelcome element
.Indeed, the green is a reminder of how the artist has learned to turn the natural qualities of her materials from potential challenges and even pitfalls into assets that she can draw on and exploit.
Kretschmer, a native of Santa Monica, Calif., earned her master of fine arts degree from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1988.
She shows regularly in New York City and had solo exhibitions last year in galleries in France and Germany.
-- Kyle MacMillan
*artist's note: the waxes have always been applied in a liquid state.