David King Essay

David King Essay

David King
Fall 2011 Fellow

“Science has a fantasy that it is objective,” David King said memorably. An area of science that intrigues the Fall, 2011 resident fellow at the Creative Glass Center of America has to do with lenses. “One reason I’m interested in this work,” he says, “is my father works with optics. He’s the one who at a certain point in my life taught me about perspective. Through osmosis I sort of absorbed his interest. Now I am exploring a similar field from a different angle. He has a mathematical engineer’s perspective. My way is intuitive.”

David King says, “I like to work in ways where people can enter at a lot of different levels,” but his thinking is more complex than that. A recent series involves security glass, the kind with wire mesh embedded in it. He uses this glass to make things, like a whisky bottle. “Some glass people,” he says, “see that it is a unique or uncommon approach. If that’s all they see that’s great, but I think for a wider audience the idea of the security glass says more. When you see security glass, more than anything, it tells you that there’s something precious behind it or that you are maybe not in the most secure place.” Security glass is not comforting. “It’s more about discomfort.”

He used the same whisky bottle shape at WheatonArts. It interests him because that specific archetypal design has historical relevance. “There the content is a little more on the surface. The sense of celebration and good times embodied in the archetype, a scotch bottle, is held in tension with self-destructive behaviors at the opposite extreme. Seeing the world through a bottle, King suggests is a kind of consumer passivity in the face of marketing, a weakness that may indicate a behavioral decline from the human beings that evolved biologically. On the other hand, King does not intend to send a simplistic puritanical message with these works. The bottle with walls of security glass might be protecting a very good scotch or it might be keeping someone away from drink.

In any context security glass suggests an attempt to make something that’s fragile more permanent. King says, “I see this as a vain attempt. In the past, he did a project in which he fabricated a big cylinder out of security glass only to break it with a hammer. The glass shatters but the wire retains its structure. Here King explores the tension between a shape and its destructibility.

He is excited by the idea of “making broken glass.” In Marcel Duchamp’s most famous work, popularly known as “The Large Glass,” the glass is broken. It was cracked accidentally after the artist finished it, but he declared that the network of cracks put the finishing touch on the piece. Always an iconoclast, Duchamp challenged the conventions of the medium in ways that resonate for King. “It speaks of insecurity or lack of certainty,” which intrigues him. He is a skillful glass blower, but he prefers to use this ability to explore ideas. “I’m not really concerned with selling any of this stuff,” he explains, although he certainly hopes to show work and have others see his work.

The “Large Glass” is a flat work that, because elements are embedded in transparent glass and because it is cracked and not hung on a wall, crosses over into sculpture. Duchamp crossed disciplines as an artist, not just in one work. King, too, has crossed over into sculpture from painting, which he initially studied. His interest in optical tricks and illusions is another facet of this duality, a mesh of two and three dimensions.

Written by Robin Rice