I've been working on what to write about David Ruth for more than four days now. Why? I guess it's because I want to honor his work, because I consider him a friend, and lastly because there is so much to say...!
American art history enjoys several modern art movements: the New York school, Abstract Expressionism, Funk Art, Lowbrow Art, to name a few. David Ruth is a member of an elite group of American glass sculptors who do not yet have a name, but should probably have a name for the collective of their fantastical work in glass sculpture. These artists, like David, create artworks constantly tested by artistic integrity, time, and mastery of technical process. What's the big deal? It's a gazillion things like resistance by the cultured elite to accept glass as a fine art medium (we've addressed that a little in an earlier blog about Chihuly at the de Young), that the art glass industry is a million dollar industry spawning giants in education, manufacturing (at a recent convention for the Glass Art Society, the whole city of Portland turned out en masse to show the love...), philanthropy, publishing, and let's face it, the eye-candy factor of bright shiny things in public places is tough to miss. The big deal is the money factor - working in glass is damned expensive - at SOFA Chicago last year, one of David's colleagues said, "It's like crack cocaine..."
David Ruth is a graduate student of glass giants, Roger Darricarrère and the American glass-blowing pioneer, Marvin Lipovsky. With Darricarrère, David learned how light interacts with glass and he mastered painting under Lipovsky. Working in a manner of Abstract Expressionism, David's work is visually compelling and contemporary. Recently influenced by a recent NEA grant to Antarctica (see his blog) and the horror of the war in Iraq - his work has become more allegorical, texturally dramatic, and always in keeping with his medium - glass. He sculpts massive glops of slick black layers on smooth surfaces, thick black textures layered on a weighty rectangle of cloudy-clear blood-red polished glass, suspended from a wall. David’s work draws the viewer to see, sometimes for the first time, shadows and veils of contrast and color. Light is diffused, absent and present, all at once, on an unexpectedly large piece of glass. David Ruth's work is fittingly placed amongst that of glass giants.
This is a very exciting time for the glass aficionado - we're in the middle of a new American movement in art history where exclusive focus for the first time is glass and its sculptural quality. This is an exciting time for contemporary art.