Structures of Light

Structures of Light


Meditative Algorithms, 2009, laminated optical float, pigmented glass, stainless steel {h. 34 in, w. 66 in, d. 12 in}. Photo/Bruce Miller.

Memorial Art Gallery
A Unity of Opposites: Recent Work by Michael Taylor
Rochester, New York
April 19 – June 28, 2009

Any doubts about the possibility of a fruitful synergy between art and science would certainly be set aside as one contemplated the dozen glass sculptures by Michael Taylor on view at the Memorial Art Gallery. These include monumental works composed of hundreds of individual pieces, along with prints and maquettes, and represent the culmination of 40 years of investi- gating light, form and design through glass. A pioneer of studio glass who entered the field in the late 1960s from ceramics—he encountered Dominck Labino and Harvey Littleton at the Toledo Museum School Glass Workshop in 1970—Taylor taught for more than 30 years, 20 of them as head glass at the Rochester Institute of Technology, retiring in 2000. He built his career and international reputation by perfecting a cold-working process applied to optical glass. This technically demanding process allows him to consider multiple variables and make artistic decisions at a more controlled pace than is possible at the hot-worker’s furnace.

Taylor’s signature forms are shard-like blocks of laminated cast glass in luminous colors, placed against each other in asymmetrical arrangements. Taylor approaches each component independently, then as part of an organic whole. He uses the grinding wheel to shape and polish individual blocks of colored and clear glass, which are then laminated together with a two-part epoxy resin, and the resulting forms paired or arranged in endless combinations and variations of color, light and shape. The critic Robert C. Morgan in Michael Taylor: A Geometry of Meaning, a 2006 monograph, has pointed out the artist’s affinities with Russian Constructivist works of the early 20th century.

In the same book, the glass specialist Tina Oldknow notes that though Taylor’s medium, cut, optical glass, can seem cold and unforgiving, he “gives it warmth with colors that radiate and reflect from the central core of each of his sculptures.” She further suggests that his works rather than originating from a mathematical base or theoretical bent “are solidly based in the natural world.” But this is clearly an artist drawn to mathematics and science—consider such titles as the glass and steel Meditative Algorithms. “The symbolism used in the abstract imagery of my work consciously resembles contemporary scientific language such as the structure of the binary code and dna profiling diagrams, powerfully influential subjects that have changed the course of humanity and been as revolutionary to our culture as the auto- mobile and the airplane were to my grandfather,” Taylor wrote in that monograph. Yet he also makes clear his attraction to other arts, noting that his forms “closely resemble the structure of literary forms, storytelling, musical composition or poetry.” He hopes to “foster an associa- tion between the abstract elements of my work and abstract elements of specialized study in art and science.” To him, the most visible aspect of this association is “the sequencing and repetition of planar components.”

The 40-page catalog is $25.