Saturday, January 7, 2012

See through


In my old job I spent a lot of time looking beneath the surface - I was interested in not how things are presented but what is being hidden. As an artist this continues - there is something much more interesting in what is witheld. It is no surprise that I am hopelessly attracted to transparent and translucent lucite.

Transparent lucite allows you not to see what is being witheld as there is nothing inside - but allows you to see the inner structure and external skin of an object all at once. The existential philosopher Heidegger would call this 'Throwness" meaning that transparency reminds us of actually being that is, we are literally thrown into existing and being aware of this by being able to see the very structure and physicality of things around us. 

Glass has been around since ancient times, and provided us with these philosophical opportunities but with practical limitations. 1839 was the beginning of the plastics era when Charles Goodyear developed a method for processing rubber commercially. The first made man plastic was created by Alexander Parkes who demonstrated it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. In 1907, Leo Hendrik Baekeland invented the first fully synthetic resin to be commercially successful, called bakelite.
Plexiglass or acrylic or lucite is a synthetic polymer and was developed in 1928 in various laboratories. It was first brought to market in 1933 by Rohm and Haas in US under the trademark Plexiglass. As a light shatter resistant alternative to glass, the material was developed and manufactured for aircraft canopies and submarine windshields  in WWII.

It was after World War II that the process of embedding objects in Lucite was developed and it became popular as a cheap material for jewelery making after the war. Innovations such as moonglow and confetti lucite jewelry appeared from 1940s.

In the early 1960s the concept of disposable culture became something to celebrate, and geometric space age fashion by haute couture designers like Cardin and Coureges encouraged PVC dresses and lucite jewelry. The result was an influx in cheap easily mass produced geometric shaped lucite pieces.  Lucite was to re-emerge as a popular material as organic forms in the 1980s and this continues today. There is a real softness and tactility and warmth that adds to its appeal for me.

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