By Meyer, Scott
Ceramics Art & Perception , No. 74
GREAT CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS OWE their quality to several key attributes. Of primary importance is the shared supposition that a truth can be reached between participants, insight not accessible to the solitary individual. For over a year, ceramic artist Richard Hirsch and glass artist Michael Rogers have been involved in an extraordinary exchange, a Gestalt almost completely impossible to imagine when considering each artist's personal path and vastly disparate approaches to content.
Hirsch has defined his career as an insatiable student of other cultures, particularly eastern and particularly ancient. From his early involvement in the development of American Raku, his sculptures have effortlessly integrated disparate techniques and spiritual dispositions to produce works of timeless and primal poignancy.
In his process, Hirsch is a reducer, endlessly honing and refining his forms to their simplest and most powerful presence. It is the same "less is more" aesthetic evidenced by the work of Noguchi, Brancusi, and Giacometti, artists he holds in greatest esteem. His content is principally the vocabulary of form, colour and surface, subtly referencing utility while defying overt narration and cultural specificity. A mortar and pestle, for example, might be discernible in a piece, but presented with such economy that they become only important as stand-ins for larger issues; their anima/animus relationship or as a record of human use and wear over considerable time. For Hirsch, the particular only exists for the purpose of making the universal palpable. His is a point of view similar to the views of Joseph Campbell whose eclectic study of human culture and spirituality yielded a sense of what is shared by all.
Rogers is an intense student of words and their power to transform meaning as they are juxtaposed. By using recognizable objects in surprising contexts, his glass sculpture builds a complexity of associations the way a poet builds depth and resonance in the spaces between words. But he is a visual poet and as such is unrestricted by linear or temporal order. Indeed he refers to his assemblages as "constellations", aggregates that can be understood only in the infinitely diverse relationship the whole has with its parts.
There is an obvious love this artist has for the particular. The objects he collects (his vocabulary) are from this culture, lifted from our lives and the lives of our families. Ornamental birds, doll parts, toys carry with them very specific and personal associations. Someone played with these, handled them and handed them down. We've found them in drawers and chests when moving from homes that were dear and we saved them, made them stand for people, places or eras. Often Rogers takes advantage of the transparency or translucency of his medium to surround his objects with a series of bulbous domes, and places them on special presentation platforms. From their perch and in this surreal vacuum they appear always to know more than they can say, muted by their very significance. Of course their silence is an invitation for the viewer to dream.
On the surface, enough common ground for useful exchange between these two sensibilities might not have been anticipated. While not directly in conflict, their ways of getting to the centre of their statements begin at opposite poles of a continuum. Fortunately, for both artists, surface is not skin-deep. What lies beneath, each object's specific history, is evidenced in its rich and rustic shell. They and their collections share much more than is evident at a glance, much more than the artists thought when they started their work together. For both, the wear of time makes significance possible. The Japanese word wabi is most applicable. …