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Indepth Arts News:

"Howard Ben Tré: Interior/Exterior"
2000-07-01 until 2000-10-01
San Jose Museum of Art
San Jose, CA, USA United States of America

A nationally-touring mid-career retrospective of cast glass sculpture by internationally recognized artist Howard Ben Tre is on view at the San Jose Museum of Art until Sunday, October 1. Organized by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the exhibition is an overview of the artist's work from the mid-1980s through the present. Howard Ben Tre: Interior/Exterior examines the artist's interest in ancient cultures, classical architecture, and human experience, and is comprised of 30 sculptures, 11 works on paper, a video about the artist, and maquettes and photographs from four public art projects.

Howard Ben Tre, whose work is often compared to Constantin Brancusi and Isamu Noguchi, is widely regarded as a pioneer in the use of cast glass as a sculptural medium. His pale green monolithic forms transmute the medium into stunning works of art that are at once timeless and contemporary. Ancient architecture and architectural elements inspired Ben Tre's earliest floor-based series - Cast Forms, Structures, and Columns. As his work progressed, he developed an interest in bringing overtones of the vessel and the figural into his work.

In his catalogue interview with Patterson Sims, Ben Tre states, After years of focusing on the supremacy of the vertical and its architectural references, I wanted to explore ideas based on landscape and the non-Western perception of the earth as the ultimate power source. The following series - Figures, Primary Vessels, and Basins - directly and indirectly reference the human figure and ritual receptacles in sculptural terms, featuring internal cavities, tool-like shapes, and vessel-like forms.

Figural references became abstracted in the later series, Wrapped Forms, which was inspired by ancient Eastern traditions of wrapping temple fragments to denote sacredness. In Ben Tre's most recent series, Bearing Figures, the vessel form as a metaphor for fertility is used to create works in sandblasted glass encapsulated by granite or bronze; Ben Tre states: Most of the Bearing Figures were intended for siting outdoors and, not coincidentally, the glass vessels are borne within the protective 'surround' of granite or bronze. Of course, again there is the duality of outer and inner. The figural surround narrows as you walk around the sculpture and the full volume of the vessel and its penetration of the figure bearing it is revealed. Enclosed within the vessel is a cavity that is lined with metal leaf and appears to be a solid inclusion. In these works, Ben Tre has unified the interior and the exterior - the intellectual, the sensual and the spiritual - in a harmony of concrete forms.

In his essay Arthur C. Danto states of Ben Tre's oeuvre, The body of work which began by celebrating the machinery and the dignity of industrial labor, has evolved into a tribute to forms of life more primitive than our own by far, based on spirituality and ritual, and for whom no fitter emblem can be imagined than the translucent substance of which its structures are made.

Born in Brooklyn, Howard Ben Tre resides in Providence, Rhode Island, where he earned an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. The recipient of many awards, including three NEA Fellowships, his work is in numerous private and public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Corning Museum of Glass in New York; and The National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, Japan, among others. Howard Ben Tre's sculpture has been exhibited nationally and internationally for more than two decades.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 164-page four-color publication, with essays by Mary Jane Jacob and Arthur C. Danto and an interview with the artist conducted by Patterson Sims.

Howard Ben Tre: Interior/Exterior was organized by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona, and curated by Debra L. Hopkins, Curator of Exhibitions. The exhibition tour and catalogue are made possible in part through the generous contributions of Stuart and Maxine Frankel, Benson and Francine Pilloff, George and Dorothy Saxe, Jon and Mary Shirley, Robert and Vera Loeffler, and Jack and Becky Benaroya.

11th Figure, 1988,
cast glass, brass, gold leaf, pigmented waxes,
54 1/2 x 15 x 13,
collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser,
copyright and courtesy of the artist

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