Work of the Week – January 5, 2015

Monday, January 5, 2015

by Sadie Barner

Rick Beck - On Axis

This week’s Work of the Week is this sculpture: On Axis by Rick Beck.

“I am interested in playing volumes of mass against details by extracting and exaggerating the things I find interesting. Ultimately the work should challenge the eye and the mind.” –Rick Beck

Rick Beck was born in 1960 in Alberta, Canada. He started out studying painting but discovered an interest in glass. In 1982, Beck received his Bachelor’s degree from Hastings College in Nebraska. This degree was followed by his MFA from Southern Illinois University in 1989.  He has become a large part of the studio glass movement. The studio glass movement was started in the 1950’s when Harvey K. Littleton, a ceramics teacher, started experimenting with glass. The movement tries to create glass pieces that strive away from functionality and towards artistic expression through sculptural forms.

As an important part of the studio glass movement, Beck is known for his large-scale glass sculptures that depict both everyday and industrial objects. He taught at Pilchuck Glass School. While there he assisted Curtiss Brock, a world-known glass artist, and Jan Manes, a Czech glass artist. Beck has also taught at Penland School of Craft since 1988. His work is exhibited at museums all over the country, including Mint Museum of Craft and Design (NC), Wustum Museum of Fine Arts (WI), Ogden Museum of Southern Art (LA), and Columbia Museum of Art (SC). In 1994, he won the North Carolina Arts Council Visual Arts Fellowship. Following that award, he won the SAF/NEA Regional Visual Arts Fellowship in 1995.

Now, Rick Beck works on glass sculptures in his studio in Spruce Pine, NC. His artwork takes everyday objects and adds an artistic twist. Beck uses carved, cast and fabricated glass to create his artwork. Some of his artwork are screws and silverware that have been manipulated or presented in new and artistic ways. He also has quite a few pieces that resemble scissors. His scissors all have open cutting edges and are often off-balance. All of his artwork seems to create a new interpretation of an everyday object.

Like his other works On Axis creates a new interpretation of well known theme. Everyone has dealt with an axis in math class. Here, however, that axis has been tilted and a sculptural form is balancing perfectly on the tilted axis. While the artwork is completely stable, it appears as though it might teeter off-balance at any moment. That effect, combined with the glass material, makes the piece appear fragile. The actual shape of the glass form reminds me of a compass. This fragile off-balance compass certainly reinterprets the idea of an axis. The piece looks as if it is stuck on the axis but also as if it might slide off at any moment. For me, looking at this artwork, especially so close to New Years, reminds me of all the different directions life can go. We are all following a teetering compass that at an moment can “fall” and take us in a new, but not necessarily bad, direction.

Regardless of your interpretation of On Axis this work, as said by Rick Beck, “challenges the eye and the mind.”

Artwork above: Rick Beck, On Axis, 2000, Glass, Cast, 60.00 x 14 x 9.5  inches. Gift of Sonia and Isaac Luski. Permanent Collection. 2002.04.50.