Bamboo and I have been arch-enemies for a long time, ever since a house I owned in Melbourne had a back-yard full of it.
So it’s nice to walk through a grove of eight-foot-high bamboo knowing it’s rootless and can only proliferate at temperatures above 1500 degrees F.
I’m talking about the current Bryan Rubino show at Fulcrum Gallery. The glass artist, whose name will be familiar to many from his 2006 copyright tiff with Dale Chihuly, has been working on this bamboo series for a couple of years now out of his Shelton studio, and Fulcrum owner Oliver Doriss–who worked on Rubino’s glassblowing team years ago when he first broke away from Chihuly Inc.–is pleased to be the first local gallery to show Rubino’s work in a while.
Says Doriss: “No-one else will touch Bryan’s work right now. But my view of Chihuly’s lawsuit is that it’s funny. Chihuly started the lawsuit without actually putting copyright on his ideas.”
Doriss is a fan of Rubino’s work, and for good reason: his work is well-made and, mostly, aesthetically excellent. “Odysseus’ Garden” is Fulcrum’s biggest show to date, and completely fills the front and middle rooms of the Hilltop space. The central theme is the bamboo: tall canes of glass, varying from around 1-3 inches in diameter, set into floor-boxes in “groves.” Not all the colors work equally well: the blood-red “Crimson” at the front is fiery and strong, but the green looks a little odd and the “Autumn” set in the middle room (olive to brown to gold to tangerine) reminds me of Walgreens holiday decorations. But the clear glass “Winter” grove opposite the red is stunning, catching the light and playing with the street scene outside. None of the groves has the same floor-box: Rubino seems to be experimenting with what works and what’s necessary (the neon bamboo, for instance, need boxes which hide the transformer) and some look better than others. (The fake black sand is the most Vegas-casino-ish, the solid boxes the most elegant.)
On the walls are some glass flowers that erupt very Chihuly-esque from their spurting stamens, and on pedestals are a variety of glass sculptures: clear, bubbly “Ocean Life” forms that combine octopus and starfish in a swaying curve of arms; cane-work vessels that imitate Lino Tagliapietra (one of Rubino’s mentors,) some agave-shaped “Florals” that would make great board-room decorations.
It’s a bit of a mish-mash installation, but completely worth seeing.
“Odysseus’ Garden” is up at Fulcrum Gallery through August 17. Thursdays 6-9 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays 12-6 p.m. and by appointment. 1308 MLK Jr. Way, Tacoma. 253-520-0250, fulcrum.oliverdoriss.com