DANBURY, CONN. — Connecticut artist Richard Klein will present a selection of recent sculptural works inspired by his visionary use of found objects in “The Same Glass, Twice,” an exhibition that will open Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, and continue through Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in the Visual and Performing Arts Center Art Gallery at Western Connecticut State University.
An opening reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in the VPAC Art Gallery on the university’s Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury. The exhibition will be open for public viewing during gallery hours from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission for gallery viewing and the opening reception will be free and open to the public; reservations to attend the reception should be made online on the VPAC events web page at www.wcsuvpac.eventbrite.com. The Art Gallery exhibition program is sponsored by the WCSU Department of Art with support from gallery patrons; donations to sustain the program will be accepted.
Klein, who has served since 1999 as exhibitions director of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, has received critical acclaim as a sculptor for his intensely personal and boldly creative assembly of commonplace found objects — from eyeglass frames and lenses to ashtrays, drinking glasses and photographs — into complex sculptural constructions. In an essay for the exhibition catalogue, artist and writer Bill Barrette described how Klein gives artistic expression to complex themes through everyday items, with special emphasis on exploring the many-faceted properties of glass.
“His signature materials are common eyeglasses and sunglasses soldered into biomorphic abstractions that suggest all manner of natural and otherworldly forms and phenomena,” Barrette wrote. “Water and light, transparency and translucency, reflectivity, refraction, shadows and opacity: These are all primary elements of Klein’s material imagination, masterfully employed to create the evanescent symmetries of his sculpture.”
In an interview with Barrette, Klein explained why he began two decades ago to work exclusively with found objects as the materials for his sculptural works.
“The main reason had to do with believing there was too much stuff in the world, and it was better somehow to make art by reusing what already exists,” Klein remarked. “Plenty of context is already built into things that humankind makes, and by simple re-contextualization, one can reveal or amplify their existing meaning. This also goes back to the idea that my identity has been put together out of fragments. My belief system is based on all these fragments of things that I have pulled together. Making sculpture with found objects relates very strongly to that idea.”
From his upbringing in both Catholic and Protestant traditions by his parents, Klein recalled that he gained an artistic appreciation for neo-Gothic church interiors illuminated by stained-glass windows as well as the austere Puritan simplicity of churches with clear-glass lighting. He drew further inspiration from his viewing in the Tower of London of stained-glass windows that artisans had reconstructed several centuries ago from shattered fragments that had been salvaged after the windows were destroyed during the Reformation.
“That is a very modernist thing to do, like making a collage,” Klein said. “The original content of the window that had told a story was broken apart, and then reassembled into something that was really abstract. In a way, this is a great analogy for what I am doing.”
Among the works that will be featured in Klein’s exhibition at Western will be “Coke vs. Pepsi” and “Holiday Inn (Beirut),” works that provide artistic expression to his interests in popular culture, geopolitics and social commentary. Another recurring theme in his exhibition is the exploration of metaphysical questions. “Most of Klein’s works share a marked tension between materiality and the ephemeral,” Barrette said, “manifested in structures where the interplay of light and shadow at first dazzles, but then seduces the viewer to approach its illusive spaces.”
One example of this juxtaposition of the material and the ephemeral is the sculpture titled “St. John the Baptist,” one of a series of sculptures that Klein has molded in urinal form. Constructed from scores of eyeglass frames, sunglass lenses, an ashtray and a liquor decanter shaped like the Liberty Bell, “the dazzling visual effect of the assemblage is reminiscent of an elaborate contemporary reliquary in which the sacred and the profane shamelessly co-habit,” Barrette said.
Klein, a New Jersey native who now resides in Norwalk, has exhibited across the United States and internationally at galleries including the Neuberger Museum of Art at SUNY Purchase; Hales Gallery in London, England; the Portland (Oregon) Institute of Contemporary Art; the Tufts University Art Gallery in Medford, Massachusetts; Caren Golden Fine Art in New York; the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; and Gavlak Gallery in Palm Beach, Florida. His works also are held in many public and private collections including the Connecticut Artists Collection, the Norton family collection in California, and the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Massachusetts.
As curator at the Aldrich Museum, he has organized more than 80 exhibitions of works by leading contemporary artists as well as major projects including “Fred Wilson: Black Like Me,” “Elizabeth Peyton: Portrait of an Artist,” and “Shimon Attie: MetroPAL. IS.” His essays on art and culture have been published in numerous books and in Cabinet Magazine.
For more information, contact the Department of Art at (203) 837-8403 or the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.
Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.