Henry Hillman Jr.’s show, Relationships, at Elizabeth Leach is aptly titled, because so many of the artist’s glass sculptures are made up of two or more components, placed in precise relationship to one another. Some works face one another like quarreling lovers in a stare-down; others jut diagonally in opposite directions, like crossing swords. Others still abut one another, their contours rising, as if working together toward some common goal.
Hillman is a prolific and obsessive artist who works in a formalist vein, usually leaving interpretive matters to the viewer, but in titling the current show so tellingly, he tips his hat for once, challenging us to consider the permutations of spatial and human relationships, and how even a minute change in position can radically influence our impressions of the work as a whole. It is fertile ground for Hillman, made even richer by a new development in technique. In the past, he has interlocked discrete, monochromatic components to create imperious constructions that were half Stonehenge, half skyscraper. Now he has warmed the work up with painterly flair, sprinkling glass frit into the blocks while they’re still in fiery liquid form, so the finished sculptures billow and float within, the colors seeming to move from one slab to another.
This is painstaking work that demands rigorous foreknowledge of what the finished piece will look like, combined with an improvisational abandon during the moment of creation. The fruits of this technique are on spectacular view in works such as Abstract Group in Blue, Green, and Yellow and Clear Multicolored Triptych, which evokes a school of Technicolor jellyfish floating lazily in a South Seas lagoon.
In Leach’s back gallery, Deborah Horrell shows nested vessels in fabulous mod colors: the blood-orange Unfolding and the delicious acid-green Infolding II, saturated within an inch of their lives, their edges and lips delicate and sugary—like a grade-school crystal-making kit that got misdelivered to Venice by way of Carnaby Street. In her glacial white Hover, Horrell steps back from gonzo chromaticism and shows immaculate restraint.
SEE: Relationships at Elizabeth Leach Gallery, 417 NW 9th Ave., 224-0521. Closes June 28.