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Akron Art Museum displaying exhibits about photography, glass

10/25/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Roger Durbin

Sungsoo Kim’s “Rediscovery 110202” is on view in the Akron Art Museum’s New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim exhibit.
Photo courtesy of the Akron Art Museum
DOWNTOWN AKRON — The Akron Art Museum has two curiously interesting smaller exhibits on view in its upstairs galleries.

Robert Stivers: Veiled Image, a show gathering together about 40 photographs from the museum’s collection, will be on view through Jan. 20. A second, newer exhibit, New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim, which displays large, intricate glass creations by these two men, will be on view through April 7.

Each exhibit requires the viewer to ponder the creative techniques of the artists as much as to take in the sheer enjoyment of their spectacular results.

Take the Stivers photographs, for instance. When walking through the gallery, you get struck by not being sure exactly what he photographed. Is it a real person, or is it a statue that he makes look like a person? His “FIC-Baby” is a prime example; he makes a statue look real through his technique of making things slightly out of focus, while at the same time seemingly bathing the subject in an eerie but flattering light.

Much the same can be said for his “Woman in Water #2.” When looking at it, we wonder how he got that specific pose from this lady (she seems to be swimming maybe, but it’s not quite clear that she is). Turns out it’s an image taken from a painting that the artist had seen.

Stivers also liked (and still likes) to use himself and his dancer friends in his works. His ethereal “Self Portrait Wrapped, from Series 5” looks like he found a mummy somewhere and made it rise up. It can seem to be like a movie still from the German expressionist films of the early 20th century.

The images on the walls are numbered. In a corner of the gallery is a box with cards that are a key to the individual pieces. Viewers are free to use one while in the exhibit area. The cards help, but really aren’t necessary to simply have fun with the whole display by just looking at it.

In an adjacent gallery room is New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim. According to museum officials, the museum, along with dozens of Ohio museums and galleries, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the studio glass movement in the United States.

The movement apparently was concerned with the creation of essentially nonfunctional objects, and thereby moving away from mass-produced glass from factories. Instead, they looked upon glass sculptures as independent artistic expression.

Approaches varied — from working glass at room temperature, through stained glass, bead making and glass blowing, to the technique used by these men — torch-flaming and cast kiln work.

Kee Young, in his Matrix series, from which the objects on view are from, reveals his interest in both ancient monuments and domestic items like vases and vessels. In fact, his “Vessel Form … Spheroid” is an artistic nod to functional items, like a large bowl (which it resembles), but one that could never be used in the manner that the inspirational form took. It evokes the large jar, but is constructed of leafy, thin curving lines of glass that give a very fragile look to the structure but which indeed supports the rather large work. It’s interesting just trying to figure out how he managed it all.

Kim, for his part, reuses industrial packaging material — Styrofoam — and discovers and creates unique forms from it. He assembles smaller sections of glass molded from identical shapes of Styrofoam and refires the work in a kiln.

Some of his works tend to look like towers, such as his “Rediscovery 110202” and “Rediscovery 090101.” There are also two larger works/installations in the gallery, like his “Rediscovery 2012-100-1,” which is a large system of small wall shelves with alternating white and black shapes five deep and 20 across. In a kind of tic-tac-toe setting, colors alternate so that no two similar colored pieces are side by side — up or across.

Another, “Rediscovery 2012-50-1,” has a similar arrangement, but five across and 10 deep. All carvings are shades of blue (from cobalt through aqua and paler) except for one bright red carving. Each piece, like in the other wall installation, is different from all others.

Gallery hours are Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. For more details, visit www.AkronArtMuseum.org.


Roger Durbin is professor emeritus of bibliography at The University of Akron and an avid art enthusiast. To contact him, email r.durbin@sbcglobal.net.

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