There is a time-honored tradition of artists working together with fine craftsmen to create beautiful art. Old Masters such as Peter Paul Rubens partnered with engravers and modern masters such as Pablo Picasso collaborated with top artisans in a variety of media to create ceramics, prints and sculptures. In this spirit, Ross Bleckner has undertaken his first art collaboration in glass with the venerable crystal house Steuben. The confluence of the brilliant crystal glass medium and Mr. Bleckner’s luminous art is a powerful addition to Matisse, Cocteau, Dali, O’Keefe, Noguchi and other twentieth-century artists whose designs have already been commissioned by Steuben since its inception in 1903.
Ross Bleckner’s work has long dealt with fragility of life, with light, and abstraction through extreme representation. His paintings convey poetry, luminosity and an attention to technique that has earned him the respect as a modern master. Mr. Bleckner’s subject matter shifts from the micro-cellular level to the vast stellar cosmos bridging the gap between large and minute. His message is the experience of the mind grasping what is too large or too small to see and the fragility of human consciousness that is dependent on these unseen forces for its existence. Together with Steuben’s unique prismatic crystal glassmaking that captures, reflects, and refracts light and the ironic fragile nature of the crystal’s solid weight, the art collaboration is well suited to Ross Bleckner’s aesthetic preoccupations.
The artist was commissioned by Steuben to create three designer collaboration pieces: a sculpture for Steuben’s permanent museum collection, a limited edition series, and an accessible line of small glass figurines. The main piece is a huge 200-pound slab of crystal entitled Interaction. This sculpture maps the human DNA in layered glass depicting the building block of life as entrapped molecules floating in a luminous red sea. Ross Bleckner’s crystal glass sculpture Pharmakinetic, cast in an edition of twelve, is an enlarged molecule of a psychotropic drug imposing in its transparency, capturing and amplifying the surrounding light as its form shifts in a surreal optical interaction with its encompassing glass cube. The Ross Bleckner engraved crystal figurine Forgotten is a coffin lid in solid crystal. The small scale (2.25” x 4.75”) belies the immensity of its tragic message ennobled by the seemingly insubstantial glass form.
Artists collaborating with master craftsmen create new opportunities for expression both for the art and for the medium. Because of its heavy nature, crystal forms have size limitations, yet Ross Bleckner pushed the physical constraints of glass with his immense Interaction. Instead of working with crystal as a functional art (for example, etching the surface of a plate or vase as artists have traditionally done with glass), Mr. Bleckner has created sculpture whose only purpose is to interact with its environment. The power of Mr. Bleckner’s art overcomes the fragile nature of the glass medium rendering it invincible, while Steuben’s crystal craftsmanship discovers a new facet of modern expression through this art collaboration with Ross Bleckner.