Reflections on glass and mirror art

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Anna Poplawska

Oak Park resident John Ludwig, a third generation glass and mirror artist, exhibits his work at the family owned Ludwig Gallery on Chicago's Northwest Side. The pieces he does are a collaboration with father Jack Ludwig, not only of labor but also of aesthetic influence.

John, who was stationed in Japan for several years, has trained in Japanese tea ceremony and other arts, and brings a strong interest in Buddhism and a Japanese aesthetic to his art. Jack traveled in Australia, where he gained an interest in the spiritual art of the aborigines. He's also fond of art deco.

All these influences are apparent in "JL 5/22," a wall sculpture. While the large central panel, decorated with mirrors and gem-like colored glass, has a Japanese asymmetrical aesthetic, the two identical patterns on either side bring in the more symmetrical look of art deco. The mirror squares, set one atop the other, are inspired by the aboriginal belief in a dream time. It's as if there are dreams and dreams within dreams being reflected back at the viewer.

It's no surprise, with a Japanese aesthetic, that the most interesting details are set off in the corners. In the lower left corner is a
series of mirrors, piled one on top of the other, like a pyramid. It's an odd form because it
protrudes out and, with the mirrored surface,
also seems to recede. It's like a black hole or a
magical tunnel that might lead a viewer into
other dimensions.

In the lower right corner, a piece of glass has been cut and appears to be broken or shredded. The translucent red color tracing it suggests a wound or a gash. This can have multiple interpretations: a break in the space-time continuum, or the one imperfection, which in some traditions is intentionally left in place so as not to challenge the gods. But a particularly ironic association is to a broken mirror. If the mirror is broken it ought to give seven years bad luck, but what happens if the piece of glass is intentionally cut to appear like it's broken? Does this give bad luck as well?

"Monstrare," the title of another work, is a term that comes from Roman Catholicism. It refers to the receptacle in which a consecrated Host is exposed for adoration. The piece is round and with a series of circles, one within the other, very much has the form of a mandala. The large glass gem at the center would represent God, and it has an illusory quality to it, changing color depending on where it's viewed from.

The circle immediately surrounding it has holograms inside, sparking in various colors, It is very like a halo. Around this is another round circle of raised glass; small circles of colored glass, some set with gems, inhabit this privileged space. They are like the angels, forming the first ring of adoration. The final outer ring is again populated by pieces of colored glass and gems, but now they represent the human race in all its sparkling variety.

These works and other glass and mirror designs by John and Jack Ludwig are available for viewing at Ludwig Gallery, 3026 N. Central Ave. in Chicago. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, call (773) 804-1212.


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