Howard Ben Tre -
Suspended #5 from Five Prints
Suspended #5 from Five Prints, 1999
Monotype with chine colle and embossing, 22 x 18 inches
Gift of the artist
Howard Ben Tre is one of the most important artists associated with the contemporary glass movement. Recognized in the early 1980s, after receiving his M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design, Ben Tre was the first artist to cast whole glass objects on a large scale. Most glass artists, such as Dale Chihuly (represented elsewhere in the Ross Collection), have explored the aesthetic potential of glass blowing. From the very beginning of his career, Ben Tre was drawn to cast glass for its associations with ancient cultures and the history of glass. A trip to Greece in the mid-1980s led to a series of "columns" and "structures," reflecting the artist's fascination with early architecture. In addition to his glass sculpture, Ben Tre has amassed a considerable body of drawings and monotypes that are closely related to his work in three dimensions. This portfolio of five monotype prints reveals the artist's more recent exploration of vessel forms. Created from shaped and printed paper that was embossed and adhered to sheets of white paper, these thick forms are sculptural in character. The monotype printing gives each shape a granulated green pattern that echoes the artist's cast glass. The shapes suggest ancient urns, flasks, and bottles, and such specific Greek types as the aryballos and alabastron. They are centered on each sheet, "suspended" by the fact that they have no supporting bases. They could only be stabilized by a tripod or if hung from the ceiling. Each vessel is further marked by a silver or gold-leaf element - a rim collar in one, a centered and interior form in the others. These elements add a sense of the magical to forms suggestive of ancient glass objects.