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Brain appeal

"Michael E. Taylor Traversing Parallels" at Museum of Glass

“Artificial Intelligence Codes/Rosetta Stone,” glass and wood by Michael E. Taylor. Photo courtesy of the artist

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There are two large exhibitions at Museum of Glass that seem to have been chosen as companion shows which contrast and complement one another interestingly. Albert Paley's glass and steel sculptures, reviewed last week in this column, are visually impressive, while Michael E. Taylor's "Artificial Intelligence Codes/Rosetta Stone" appeals more to the intellect. This is not to say that Taylor's work is not also visually appealing. It is simply not as strong aesthetically as Paley's work. Instead, it is conceptually fascinating. It appeals to the brain and makes the brain work while still being nice to look at.

Taylor is an analytical artist. His work reflects on and responds to science, art history, philosophy and current events. According to a museum press release, "Whether inspired by formal quality of geometry, the Higgs boson particle, or the moral implications of artificial intelligence, Taylor's work is ultimately about investigation." The statement goes on to say, "Taylor is widely-renowned for his cut and laminated glass works, geometric constructions inspired by everything from subatomic particles to music."

As an artist and critic thoroughly grounded in aesthetic formalism, I confess that I might not get everything he is saying in his work from a mathematical, scientific or philosophical point of view. In terms of the formal elements of color and form, his work is classical and pleasing to the eye. He works a lot with stacked or side-by-side geometric shapes and a lot of repetition with predominantly rectangular blocks of laminated glass that are either colorless and clear or filled with rainbow colors. They are prismatic, and the forms and colors change as the viewer walks around them to view them from different angles.

One of the more fascinating and humorous pieces in this show is called "Cultural Crisis Cabinet for the Critically Misinformed." It is a clear glass cabinet with a number of shelves inside. On each shelf stands an army of clear glass bottles filled with variously colored liquids. It could conceivably be water with food coloring, but a wall label explains that the bottles are filled with such fluids as antifreeze, brake fluid, cleaning solutions and other chemicals. Floating in the liquid like scientific specimens are such things as tiny doll hands, starfish and flowers. And each jar is labeled: "cynicism," "objectivity," "scientific method," "theology," "existence," and so forth. It is not clear whether these labels signify the cultural crises of the title or if they are the cure for such cultural crises.

Along one wall is a complex and seemingly random montage of notes, drawings, photographs and clippings from magazines -- the stuff of Taylor's studio, which cascades off the wall and onto the floor, and which lends clues as the artist's way of thinking and working. Yes, this is a thinking person's art exhibition.

"Michael E. Taylor Traversing Parallels," 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m., Sunday, through May 12, $5-$15, free to members, free Third Thursday, Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma, 866.468.7386, museumofglass.org  

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