When people picture America’s decaying architecture, they might think of the Rust Belt or a city like Pittsburgh in its post-steel industry state. But this architecture in decay can also be seen in America’s farmlands, where silos, barns, and other structures are rusted out or in some other stage of collapse. In artists Seth Clark and Jason Forck’s collaborative project Dissolution, the duo draw inspiration from cities and rural area’s crumbling structures, finding beauty in the abstraction of collapse and reassembly.
The project grew out of the year-long Idea Furnace Residency at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, where the exhibition is currently showing. The residency and show are good examples of how artists like Forck and Clark, alongside groups like arts incubator Radiant Hall (where Clark is a Studio Director), are working to transform Pittsburgh into an art city outside the traditional centers like New York City and Los Angeles (a topic of discussion at the city’s recent Thrival Innovation & Music Festival).
Walking into Dissolution, visitors encounter a wall facade that appears to be breaking away to expose glass infrastructure made of cast glass two-by-fours and glass lath. Visitors also see the piece Silo, a steel structure full of glass shards and covered by a thin glass roof suspended from the ceiling.
“[The wall] was one of the first pieces we talked about doing and if it was feasible in the space,” Forck tells The Creators Project. “We constructed a false wall that enabled us to frame all of the glass components into the space. The illusion it gives is that the whole space might have this glass structure under plaster walls.”
For Silo, Forck says the glass shards gradually turn from an opaque white at the steel structure’s base to clear at the top. After the two filled the structure with glass, for the next 24 hours the glass continued settling so that visitors hear the sound of breaking glass permeating the space. Clark says that the two largest works, Glass Rooftop and Glass Spire, create a huge presence in the gallery.
“Both incorporate an underlying geometric structure made of wood, which you notice first,” says Clark. “It is not until closer inspection that you realize the transparent white panels are made up of a broken glass, lath-like covering.”
“Some of the most unique works in the show […] are composed of flat, tile-like panels that appear to be soft, abstracted paintings from afar,” he adds. “As you get closer to them you begin to see the depth and sharpness of the hundreds of glass shards that are layered into each piece.”
Dissolution was a chance for Forck to connect with his fondness for the American landscape he had taken for granted while growing up on a small farm in Kansas. For him, decaying barns and rusty silos were pretty typical landmarks. The subject matter for Clark, on the other hand, emerged from a materials standpoint. When he moved to Pittsburgh in 2008, he often collaged with found paper scraps.
“They were free and easy to come by,” says Clark. “The texture and pre-aged nature of this ephemera lent itself nicely to the subject matter of abandoned and discarded buildings. I’ve been working and playing with these visuals ever since.”
Clark and Forck even incorporated some found wood and other materials from existing sites for one piece in the exhibition, Bound. The two grabbed two old wooden beams from a demolition sites, then wound them together with thin glass cane from the glass furnace. Clark says he had little experience with glass as a medium, so his big role at first was to listen and watch. After watching Forck and other glass artists, Clark had a pretty good idea what could and could not be done with glass.
“[T]he artists in residence are forced to really consider the material and its boundaries,” Clark says. “The results are always interesting. One of the first questions Jason and I tried to answer was ‘How can we collage with glass?’ and we spent the rest of the year experimenting with that question, among many others.”
Ultimately, Forck and Clark hope Dissolution gets visitors thinking about non-conventional ways of approaching glass works. The two also hope that the show triggers some sort of memories for people—ideally, road trips where passengers stare out at nothingness with the occasional structure in decline.
Dissolution runs until January 16, 2017 at the Pittsburgh Glass Center.