This exhibition represents a new collaboration between graphic artist Bill Klingensmith and his wife, sculptor Robin Cass. Klingensmith is well-known for his design projects and public installations that use typography to comment on issues around community and identity. Cass works primarily with molten glass, and her most recent work exploring themes of preservation, display, and wonder.
This exhibition started from a shared interest in the age-old trope of a “message in a bottle”. Considering their areas of expertise, the combination of text and glass at the center of this phenomenon presented intriguing possibilities for these artists.
On a conceptual level, Cass and Klingensmith were also interested in how so many of these items told real stories; poignant tales of extreme risks, poor decisions, or unfortunate events. “Although they’ve become somewhat over romanticized, thousands of these messages sealed in glass were actually tossed into the ocean - and those that were found are such compelling artifacts” says Cass, “They represent an absurd but earnest attempt to fulfill the human drive to communicate and be remembered.”
Klingensmith and Cass use a wide range of techniques and materials in this body of work, from silkscreen printing on linen canvases to high-temperature manipulation of manufactured glass bottles. “We tried to evoke the activities and time periods we’re dealing with, primarily sail and steamship travel during the mid to late 1800’s, through careful attention to process and material.” Says Klingensmith, “It gave us a chance to incorporate unusual techniques, like gilding and pyrography, which really strengthen the work’s impact.”
In this show, the couple use typography, graphic narrative, and fabricated artifacts to invite viewers to reflect on the poetic aspects of these messages in glass, and their countless individual accounts of connection, adventure, and hope.