Matthew Day Perez at
Jan Brandt Gallery

By Joseph Ingolia

February 25, 2018

  Small Break and Mend , 2017, broken, fused, and mirrored glass

Small Break and Mend, 2017, broken, fused, and mirrored glass

The possibility exists of a child’s ball taking flight within the enclosed space of a home. Somewhat less likely, is the ball making contact with a porcelain vase. It becomes less likely again, for the ball to strike the vase with enough velocity to unseat it--and send it to a dramatic meeting with a hard floor. The quantum waves present in both the floor and the vase, don’t move at the same frequency. This volatility causes the vase to shatter into a number of fragments which may equal the number of grains present on the wood of the shelf serving as its support. The vase in this instance is inexpensive, and has no sentimental value. Following the above situation, the vase is discarded. An opportunity is lost.

Somewhere in the linear flux of human history, an idea gestated where something broken was reconstructed in such a way that the evidence of its trauma is transmuted into something beautiful. The history, or rather the evidence of the object’s history--becomes part of its aesthetic worth. This technique is what the Japanese call, kintsugi. It could be considered minimalist in that it’s said to be the product of the Zen principle, mushin, which translates loosely to “no mind.” Zen is after all, the common sense approach to life that pursues economy.

While mostly practiced with pottery (something with a pragmatic use), this technique can also be involved in two-dimensional pieces, such as tiles. This is what mostly comprises the lightning-fast exhibit of artist, Matthew Day Perez. Perez is truly baking on the run, as the show ran for only one week at the Jan Brandt Gallery in Bloomington, IL. Its total contents were literally stuffed into a backpack in New York, and transported to the heartland for a viewing. Perez received his B.F.A at Illinois State University before moving on to the Rhode Island School of Design and further junctures of both professional and academic efforts (he has received many awards also: the Fulbright, the John Pena National Endowments for the Arts Scholarship, a U.S. State Department grant for new works, a Lois Roth Grant as well as residencies at The Corning Museum of Glass, the Creative Glass Center of America, and Pilchuck Glass School

  Small Break and Mend , 2016, broken, fused, and mirrored glass

Small Break and Mend, 2016, broken, fused, and mirrored glass

Within the cozy, mid-twentieth-century gallery, several material studies hang on a white wall. It could be a portion of a piece he calls Break and Mend 14 in which small tiles are arranged in a square seven tiles long and five tiles in height. These five examples first appear as exercises in kintsugi. The tiles hang in a straight and eye-level position, and from some distance resemble ideas of veins, capillaries, and alveoli. Their titles are utilitarian and angular—suggesting that the focus is on the technique rather than any inspirational concept.

To a certain way of thinking, it might seem that the act of breaking a tile and then reassembling it is a simple one and that the end result of its reconstruction completely random and without regiment. Perez appears to be working at the quantum or chip level—wielding self-similarity and other chaos-related principles. When the designs are examined slowly and closely, it’s noticed that one small component is almost a perfect representation of the whole design. This is self-similarity—a vital aspect of computer-generated, fractal designs. When viewing wind marks on desert sand, the same phenomenon is present.

  Small Break and Mend , 2016, broken, fused, and mirrored glass

Small Break and Mend, 2016, broken, fused, and mirrored glass

  Small Break and Mend , 2016, broken, fused, and mirrored glass

Small Break and Mend, 2016, broken, fused, and mirrored glass

The exception to the pieces with rounded lines is an example that looks industrially metallic and comprised of smaller “cubes” of glass. Here again, the self-similarity is demonstrated with the components of the design mirroring its overall texture. It might be further argued, that it’s “welded” texture resembles a representation of, or a metaphor for artificiality or those things not present in nature. Yet, the arrangement of the cubes seems to be executed by some level of chance. In addition to fracturing glass, Perez also casts it. Only one example is present—it being very difficult to transport more than one glass casting by hand, or by rucksack. It’s title is Little Pile, a white, translucent glass figure resembling the decks of a steamship. It was explained that the intention was to illuminate it with soft lighting, but again, travel space would not allow for it.

  Small Break and Mend , 2016, broken, fused, and mirrored glass

Small Break and Mend, 2016, broken, fused, and mirrored glass

The piece is five, flat rectangular “stories” raised horizontally and supported by short, column buttresses resembling those in parking decks. Possibly, they transmit weight through compression from a layer above to the one below it. The technique of casting glass in a shape like this is difficult—which adds to its “message.” Somewhat minimalist (as all of the pieces seen in this particular exhibit seem to be), it communicates through its material. It could be an architectural model of a smoked glass business complex, or the hive of some obscure insect. The eye is drawn to the space between the layers and the load-bearing columns present there. These behave as “figure” while the rectangular layers are “ground.”

Perez also works with digital media, printed matter and installation.

Images courtesy of Shea Grehan.

This article is funded by the Illinois State University Friends of the Arts.


Joseph Ingolia is a Champaign-Urbana area musician with over thirty years of experience in both performance and pedagogic areas. He has studied Jazz Performance at Western Illinois University and Parkland College (Champaign, IL), Philosophy and briefly Journalism at Eastern Illinois University.