Objectspace is delighted to present Fancy Fools Flight, a new body of work by Martinborough-based glass artists Jim Dennison and Leanne Williams who since 2004 have worked collaboratively as the Crystal Chain Gang. Together the pair have pushed the boundaries of the medium, utilising cast glass to create innovative work that traverses the territories of art, craft, design and industry. An engagement with space is critical to the pair's practice.
The Crystal Chain Gang have been previously selected for three shows at Objectspace: Left at the Members Lounge (2004: new craft practice) Chandelier (2006: glass practice) and Her Majesty's Pleasure (2006: cultural exchange). This exhibition is their first solo show at Objectspace.
Initiated, curated and toured nationally by the Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui, Fancy Fools Flight features an impressive new body of work which challenges the possibilities of the medium of cast glass, taking the overlooked utilitarian bottle form as its starting point. These bottles are based on the form of cut-glass decanters often used to house alcoholic spirits, but could be seen to hold spirits of a different kind. The Crystal Chain Gang top these with stoppers that feature a lineup of guardian characters that are drawn from a rich visual memory bank, both real and imagined. Sourcing inspiration from second-hand shop finds and images from books, the pair literally re-mould these overlooked objects into new forms, punk them up, subvert them and make them foolish and heroic all at once. They state, "The message is not in the bottle but it is the bottle itself... our intention is to stir memory and re-contextualise the bottle to try and engage the viewer in new and unexpected ways".
The exhibition also features works made by the Crystal Chain Gang since 2004 including an imposing chandelier, an impressive colourful flock of budgies, tūī and bellbirds and a jewelled skull named Polly. The over-sized chandelier performs as any good chandelier should, but looking a little closer you will find something unexpected. Its crystals are adorned with many press moulded glass wings with a central throat of cast-glass chicken feet, which subverts the traditional chandelier form; not quite what you would anticipate seeing suspended above your head while feasting.
Dennison and Williams draw inspiration from a wide range of areas, including the history of glass-making abroad, from which they cite René Lalique and the elaborate glass furnishings created for Eastern palaces during the nineteenth century as influences. Closer to home, New Zealand colonial history and objects and imagery sourced from second-hand shops are all brought together.
As well as Dennison and Williams working fulltime on this body of work, they have also had a dedicated crew of between two and three studio assistants who have been vital in bringing this labour-intensive and heavy cast glass work to fruition. These objects have been born of a gang, and collectively the finished works form an unlikely crew all of their own.
The exhibition Fancy Fools Flight is accompanied by a publication supported by Creative New Zealand who also provided the Crystal Chain Gang with a grant to produce new work for this exhibition.
Fancy Fools Flight is curated by Greg Donson, Curator/Public Programmes Manager at the Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui. Objectspace is the first venue for this exhibition which will then tour nationally during 2012.