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Review: Katherine Gray at Acuna-Hansen Gallery

February 27, 2009 |  5:00 am

Katherine Gray works in a medium -– glass -- that rarely takes center stage in a contemporary art gallery not already given over to craft or design.

“It’s a Very Deadly Weapon to Know What You’re Doing,” her first solo show at Acuna-Hansen Gallery, makes this seem an unfortunate fact. It is, as she notes in a statement on the show, a “devastatingly beautiful” material with as rich an array of conceptual implications as any of the other historically craft-oriented media that have fed into fine art over the course of the last few decades.

The centerpiece of the show, “Forest Glass,” is an installation consisting of a pair of free-standing, clear acrylic shelving units, each roughly 9 feet tall and around the breadth of a coffee table, loaded with hundreds of mismatched thrift store glasses.

At first glance, the towers are all dazzle, sparkling and glittering in the light, giddily precarious in their fragility. Step back, however, and you’ll see that the glasses are arranged by color -- clear, brown and green -- in such a way as to form the shape of a tree.

The work’s title refers to a type of Medieval Northern European glassware that was characterized by its green and brown tints, and that relied on -- and depleted -- local forests to fuel the furnaces in the factories. The piece, which is designated “in progress” (another, presumably larger version will appear at the Chrysler Museum in Virginia later this spring), draws on present-day notions of reuse and recycling to posit a clever sort of reforestation.

Several smaller, blown-glass works in the back room make a lovely addition, emphasizing the broad potential of the medium while also showcasing Gray’s very considerable skills.

-- Holly Myers

Acuna-Hansen Gallery, 427 Bernard St., L.A., (323) 441-1624, through March 21. Closed Sundays through Tuesdays.

Photo: Detail from "Forest Glass." Credit: Acuna-Hansen Gallery