Bottle in the River: Richard Klein

March 17 - June 17, 2018

Glass is a material intimately connected with the ways in which humans experience the world. Perhaps because it is so common, or because it is usually transparent, we often don’t notice its presence or how it affects our senses. It is a material separating us from, and opening us to, the world—in our homes, cars, and offices, on computers, tablets, and cell phones.

Sculptor Richard Klein is committed to using found glass in his work. It is an art practice born at least partly of a concern for the environment, as a response to the overwhelming amount of glass in the waste stream. Some of his repurposed materials are detritus—glass fragments in a variety of shapes and colors. Others are cultural touchstones, mass-produced products designed in a particular period or style. The commercial glass embedded in sculptural wall reliefs stirs, for me, both personal and collective memories.

Klein exploits the ability of glass to transmit, reflect, and refract light. Thrown on and through each sculpture, light magically increases the volume and complexity of each piece, creating dynamic three-dimensional drawings in glass, light, and shadow.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator

“The flow of the river is ceaseless and its water is never the same. The bubbles that float in the pools, now vanishing, now forming… so in the world are man and his dwellings… like foam on the water.” — Kamo no Chomei, Hojoki (An Account of My Hut), 1212

I chose the title and thematic focus of this exhibition because of BMAC’s location on the banks of the Connecticut River. For me, a bottle drifting down a river is both a symbol of the way we treat nature and a signifier of the passage of time. On one level my work can be thought of as still life related to the seventeenth-century Dutch and Spanish vanitas or memento mori paintings, which contain symbols of time and decay.

The works in Bottle in the River are made from castoffs of our everyday material culture—eyeglasses, bottles, drinking glasses, and ashtrays. Since the mid-1990s I have used found glass objects because I believe that there is too much “stuff” in the world and it’s better somehow to repurpose what already exists. In my work I attempt to reveal and amplify the meanings incorporated in ordinary objects by putting them in new contexts and poetic juxtapositions. Increasingly I use those (such as ashtrays) with advertising logos to add layers of cultural and historical reference.

Transparency, refraction, and reflection speak of the immaterial. Obsessive craftsmanship, repetition, and accumulation reinforce materiality. Analogous to the human condition, my sculpture exists in the space between these two extremes.

— Richard Klein

This exhibit is presented in connection with The Confluence Project, an experiment in creative placemaking organized by Vermont Performance Lab and Windham Regional Commission.