Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Zen of Nuevo Fuego at PG Contemporary

by Dean Liscum

In American culture, Buddhas equal zen.

Susan Plum's exhibit Nuevo Fuego at PG Contemporary includes several Buddha busts in glass rectangular cages. They're well executed, but they don't take me there. I look; I appreciate, but I don't transcend.

Red Buddhas I
flameworked pyrex glass, cast plaster, jacaranda seed pods

The most compelling aspects of these pieces are the objects that Plum puts with the Buddhas (jacaranda seed pods with the red one, and amethyst with the blue one) and the flameworked glass frames.

Blue Buddhas I
flameworked pyrex glass, amethyst, cast plaster, enamel

It's these crystalline webs that are transcendent. They are glass filigree. In person, these networks of super-heated silicon are as delicate and complex as my description insinuates. And yet they possess a certain self-sustaining rigor as a space that your mind can inhabit without the fear that it will collapse upon itself.

Mixed media
I spoke briefly with Plum and she described the process of making them which starts with a straight rod of pyrex glass that is super heated to over 2800 F and is then sculpted and fused. She referred to constructing these weaves as "drawing in 3D," which reminded me of the artist Gego, who had the exhibition Questioning the Line: Gego, A Selection, 1955—1990 at the MFAH in 2005.

Solar Round (from the side)
Fired clay, flameworked pyrex glass, enamel
In Solar Round, Plum's glass weaving combines with other techniques and materials to form my favorite piece of the show. The delicate vortex/nest of flameworked glass mounted on the clay base with concentric circular grooves and the shadows cast by it just work for me.

Solar Round (from the front)
Fired clay, flameworked pyrex glass, enamel
And then there's Branches. This simple, formal piece may be unfairly exploiting my zen state of mind as a result of the "Weaves," but it does it successfully. And although the lighting is terrible for photographs, it actually enhances the experience of the pieces.

Flameworked pyrex glass branches, natural branches,
latex paint, tin amalgam

If you're in need of a little zen, view these pieces in person. The exhibit runs to through December 10, 2011.


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