In his photo on the show catalogue, noted glass artist Joel Philip Myers looks like a cohort of Archie Bunker’s, outfitted in full stream-fishing regalia, cigar in mouth, ready for a day out with the boys from the lodge. Ah, but Archie Bunker never made objects like these.
For 25 years--since the ‘60s explosion of fine art studio (as opposed to factory) glass production--the self-taught, Illinois-based Myers has gradually come to occupy the forefront of his field as a maker of innovative, graceful vessels and as a respected East Coast teacher.
This show concentrates on work from 1981 to 1988 with examples from his “Continuous Fragment” series. An essay calls Myers a constructivist, but outside his clean rounded vessel shapes we’re hard pressed to find signs of this in the fluid squiggles and daubs of brilliant glass color that Myers embeds in several-inch-thick clear-glass containers.
He typically begins with a clear-glass ball (blown by an assistant) and uses wood or other protective tools to sculpt the molten glass into an oval vessel. He then blows other paper-thin balls of opaque colored glass, lets these cool and breaks them into random fragments. These are added to the clear glass with a torch or rolled into the still hot surface. This is followed by further layers of clear glass and more layers of colored shards.
The technique is demanding and requires self-control to avoid fussiness. Resulting bright “drawings” locked in glass can be spindly as contour lines or liquid as a Frankenthaler wash. They can call up pure, good design, the depths of the sea or a patch of distant flowers on a crisp, crystalline afternoon. (Kurland Summers Gallery, 8742-A Melrose Ave., to Dec. 3.)