In what may be the most striking installation of the season, Rob Wynne, glass artist extraordinaire, has a new show up – and all around – at Gavlak Palm Beach.
“Reflection”, a solo exhibition of new installations by New York-based artist Wynne, is unique in that it is composed of fluid works – thousands of pieces of mirrored glass staged on the gallery walls as a “kaleidoscopic, contiguous network, like fascia, the connective tissue which upholds the human body,” he says.
Palm Beach art lovers know Wynne from his three-story installation in the grand staircase at Norton Museum of Art, called “I Remember Ceramic Castles, Mermaids & Japanese Bridges” which was commissioned in 2019.
This glittering splash travels up the walls and stairs, with letters made of hand-poured glass and wave-like forms in silver and blue.
The beauty of Reflection is that 16 of them are installed floor-to-ceiling on all four walls of the gallery. Each individual work is not easily isolated, but collectors can buy it in commissioned pieces to fit their wall space.
An elegy to his mindset the past two years during the pandemic, the exhibit has multi-layered meanings of “reflection,” both mentally, spiritually, and physically.
A preview of the show during installation reveals a whole new element of his process. The complicated works, made up of thousands of pieces, need to have a paper wall template made with numbered cutouts for each dot and swoosh of glass. Then they must be specially packed in hand-cut foam boxes for shipping.
“Yes it was a lot,” Wynne says from his New York studio. “I mean, there were thousands of individual components, so it’s like a puzzle figuring it all out, getting it up correctly, but they did a good job.”
This is a time-consuming, but vital, process Wynne had to invent along with how he came to create these dazzling works, to begin with. He hand pours the molten glass into a shape then coats the back to create the mirror-like surface. A hole is carefully drilled into the middle of the shape for a screw to insert into the wall.
“Oh, it’s a system, and it looks more complicated than it is,” Wynne says. “It’s actually very simple, it has to be because those templates are sent globally and people have to understand how to do it. So the protocols for installation are pretty straightforward. Every practice comes with a set of travails that should fulfill the work. People also need to keep the templates, that’s an integral part of the work.”
Asked what was in his mind when he started this, Wynne says
“I wanted to reference my long relationship with Palm Beach through the Norton Museum and the Gavlak Gallery. And I wanted to try to extend that immersive idea that I did at the Norton when they did the renovation. I did the staircase piece so wanted to use the opportunity to create an immersive piece within the gallery space that gave a nod to the Norton piece. The name “Reflection” was purposefully chosen because it’s not just the obvious fact that they’re mirrored components. Moreover, this is also in a nod to what we’ve all been through these last two years.”
“I wanted to make something positive and sort of elegiac that would give the viewer pause to actually reflect.”
Like the Norton installation, Wynne made the new work in the gallery very site-specific, cut to go around doorways and bump up into ceilings and walls.
‘This was a welcomed collaboration with Sarah Gavlak because she knows the space so well and I did not actually come down to measure it all. So in a way, it became almost like a puzzle in so far as there are individual actual pieces embedded in that installation. You need a checklist or map to find them. What I did in working out the schematic, I incorporated actual standalone pieces and then created kind of fascia bits of components that were used to create that overall immersiveness.”
Wynne says it was a lot to figure out and the gallery team was very helpful and his studio is very particular about getting the measurements exact.
“I’ve been making these kinds of pieces for quite a number of years, but it’s so strange that in fact, you learn as you go, how to refine the techniques into a more fluid concept. I’m always learning, not just the making of the work, but the actual practical way that it gets installed and packed. It just keeps evolving, especially as I do more and more complex, larger pieces.”
A new look emerges in Reflection, where he uses flat mirrors and makes poured glass frames around them.
“Well, that has a Genesis,” he says. “When I first started a long time ago working with poured glass, I started first with text. I found a way that I could actually draw with the molten glass and create individual letters. And then I covered them with silver nitrate that you put on mirrors. But my original idea was that the viewer, in reading the wall text, would see themselves reflected. They would become a kind of participant because they would catch glimpses of themselves.”
The idea didn’t entirely work because the texture of the hand-poured glass, or the “ambient sound activity,” as Wynne calls it, hinders the reflection.
“I never quite let go of that desire to involve the viewer. And subsequently, I realized that I could use a mirror with those frame shapes. That would offer an entrance into the viewer becoming an actual part of the artwork so that there was a kind of concept to wanting to include the viewer as part of the experience of looking at the work and at themselves.”
Wynne’s “biomorphic in nature” work has the capability of subverting spaces and being able to be installed in different ways. The sheer glittering beauty of the show means this is a complete, never to be repeated exhibit on its own, a four-walled galaxy set down in Poinciana Plaza.
Reflection is up through February 6, 2022, at Gavlak, 340 Royal Poinciana Way Ste M334, Palm Beach. Online at www.gavlakgallery.com