Cultured Magazine

December 2011

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Page 97 of 115

The Accidental Artist By allowing the unexpected to happen, Jeff Zimmerman harnesses every glass blower's greatest fear—imperfection— and turns it into master craft. BY RACHEL WOLFF Jeff Zimmerman likes to describe much of what he does as drawing. It might seem like an odd choice of words for a vir- tuosic glass blower, but in many regards, it is the perfect way to characterize Zimmerman's ever-evolving output. His custom light fixtures—sinewy brass vines studded with pearly glass orbs—are line drawings cutting through space; his tear-shaped iridescent light fixtures, arranged in splash-like shapes on the wall, are vibrant 3D abstractions; and his crumpled glass vases are so perfectly dented, twisted and deformed they look like they could only ever exist on a deftly-drawn sketchbook page. At this year's edition of Design Miami/, Zimmerman will show an arresting and immersive new body of work. R20th Century, Zimmerman's New York-based gallery, has installed a 320-square-foot standalone room within the confines of their booth. Zimmerman has hung about 50 oblong glass "tears" from the space's 12-foot ceiling, each at varying dis- tances from the ground. Viewers are invited to enter and (carefully!) navigate the landscape, which, powered by the 25-watt light bulbs installed within each iridescent piece, ex- udes a soft, ambient, almost otherworldly light. Zimmerman has other objects, lighting elements, and installations on view at Gallery Seomi in Seoul, South Korea, and at R20th Century's Tribeca flagship through the end of the year. For some time now, the Brooklyn-based craftsman has worked diligently to expand the practice of glass blowing it- self, pairing his carefully honed (and virtually unmatched) skills with an artist's eye for shape, space and composition. The son of cermacists, object-making was more or less in Zimmerman's blood. He trained in the classical Venetian technique at the Pilchuk School in Seattle and, early on in his career, fabricated glassworks for fine artists like Maya Lin and Kiki Smith. Zimmerman has also dabbled in perform- ance art—he founded a group called the B Team with R20th Century's Zesty Meyers. Their act was sheer spectacle—on par with the Blue Man Group, but grittier, edgier and—we kid you not—chock full of splattering, oozing and gravity-defying molten glass. It's a way of working that continues to permeate Zim- merman's practice today, as seen in both the ways in which viewers will navigate his ethereal Design Miami/ installation and the sort of experiments he embarks upon to develop the techniques themselves. Take those elegantly crumpled vases. "When you're learning how to blow glass, that's an accident that every glass blower is trying to avoid," Zimmer- man says. "And I thought, why are you avoiding it? It's just the coolest thing. These kind of experiments allow the process to be a part of the final result." 96 CULTURED PHOTOS BY SHERRY GRIFFIN

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