Ron Desmett
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Summer 2007/ Issue 107
Review by John Drury

Ron Desmett “Lidded Trunk Vessels”
hpgrp Gallery
New York
Feb 7- March 7, 2007

With the material's smooth, shiny surfaces and potential for pure, symmetrical form, glassmaking can become a quest for perfection. But in Ron Desmett's recent work it is the imperfection possible with glass that is glorified. Satin-black finishes highlight lumpy forms and augment every dimple, fold, and crease in these works, which resemble oversized truffles dragged forth from some dark recess of the mind. These blown-glass works recall the tortured platters of legendary ceramicist Peter Voulkos in a way each object is expressively textured and overtly handled. Desmett's pieces are presented atop nearly identically colored steel shelves supported by single arched legs. The blemished pitted, and welded surfaces of the metal supports were well matched to the blown items, echoing the monochrome glass and connecting the disparate works.In a world of mass-produced, perfectly reproduced trinkets and objects, pumped out of factories and informed by historical pastiche, Desmett's "Lidded Trunk Vessels" are daring in their commitment to defiant singularity.

The expansion and deflation that led to the forms' creation was so evident in the installation, it seemed almost possible to hear the forms breathing in and out. Like some sort of misshappen moonshine jug, each form appeared stretched and deflated like a balloon from last night's party. Desmett flirts with anti-form in these organic creations, which mock functionality with their nearly useless stumps of lids and faux handles. Desmett is not the first to work with non-functional vessels (see the teapots of murrine master Richard Marquis), but here the colorization couldn't be further from Marquis's extravagant technical processes and kaleidoscopic color schemes.

Desmett's dark reliquaries speak to Everyman through sculptural forms that are never crisp. Blown into hollowed cores of rotting tree trunks, these works echo the process of their manufacture and yet also connect to green concerns and recycling. In their dull sheen Desmett's forms resemble filthy black snow piles next to the curb after the sidewalks have been cleared, turned iceberg-hard a week after falling.

The snow, pocked by rain and etched by the warming sun, remain somehow beautiful in a transient glacial state. Yet Desmett"s pieces have endured a trial by fire and might better be compared to cooling lava beds buckling and heaving forward as they are transformed under the pressure of their own weight.

Great art doesn't need to be pretty. Few would call Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1504) beautiful in the traditional sense of the word, but few would deny its status as a masterpiece. It is a breath of fresh air to encounter an artist, particularly one who  creates in glass, who marches to his own drummer. Ron Desmett is certainly such an artist.

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