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October 2011
Utah's Art Magazine: Published by Artists of Utah
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Bestower of Honors by Andrew Kosorok
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Andrew Kosorok . . . from page 1

Glass serves as the central, unifying structural element in Kosorok's pieces, but just as a glass maker will add substances to the basic components of glass (silica, soda, lime) to alter the color, reflectivity or brilliance of a piece, Kosorok adds to his etched glass found or crafted elements that allow him to reflect the profound themes he is exploring. "Bestower of Honors 24 (Al-Mu’izz)" is based on the sacred Tomb of Tamerlane, the Muslim conqueror from Central Asia who remains one of the most honored warriors in Islam.|0| Inside a glass box at the center of the work, a cluster of Boy Scout merit badges provides a contemporary, deflated parallel from western culture. Together, the symbols allow Kosorok to comment on a spiritual principal common to both cultures. “Recognition in this life is fleeting," the artist says. "Real worth and validation comes only as we seek the Divine Will. Presidents, kings and emperors will all be brought to the knowledge that, in the end, the greatest honor God bestows on any of his creatures is the simple title, ‘Friend’.” Kosorok brings these two cultural symbols together to make a profound statement of the fleeting nature of the temporal and the real value of the eternal and in doing so validates the harmony of these cultural icons instead of their difference.

"Victorious 08 (Al-‘Aziz)" is a lovingly rendered sculpture that is a testament to human potential and the will of God.|1| In this sculpture Kosorok unites western philosophical ideas with Islamic and Christian references. The sculpture is two interlaced tetrahedrons, the Platonic solid symbolizing fire. The etched glass is green and blue, symbolic in Islam for growth and nourishment. Inside the sculpture a small flame alludes to the Christian injunction to let one's light shine. “Divine Might is both protective and enabling: He can overpower the very fires of hell, keeping them damped and still; He can also empower us to use our talents and blessings for the greatest good.” Here we find Kosorok using Christian and Islamic sacred symbols together in a sculpture that is staggeringly beautiful and realized only as it attests in its perfect connectivity of truths essential to both faiths suggesting unity over diversity.

Another breathtaking example of Kosorok’s painstaking physical and laborious mental work can be seen in the structurally stunning and spiritually profound "Merciful 02 (Ar-Raheem)."|2| In a complex arrangement of glass pointed arches, an allusion both to the Gothic architecture of Christianity, and the Islamic architecture that inspired it, the eye is brought back into an abstract space, a visual dimension that suggests infinity. Etched from behind is an image from the Fremont Petroglyphs of the western Anasazi culture symbolizing the hand of God. The power of this sculpture is apparent through a profoundly evocative visual metaphor. Kosorok states “The Hand of God is spiritually extended to all, bond and free, rich and poor, whole and ill, who wish to partake of his infinite, eternal Mercy. Every individual who desires it may ask in faith for, and receive, Divine Mercy.” Only through the potency of the iconography and the beauty of the form does the art come fully into fruition and the portentous nature of this message truly seem authentic.

Finally, a last example to consider here is the ethereal "Abaser 22 (Al-Khafid)", a voluminous, delicate glass etched plate sculpture of the utmost intricacy and beauty.|3| Inside the fine iridescent exterior is a large hanging moonstone and a pile of ashes. The moonstone is taken from the Sufi tradition of Jesus, who according to that mystical branch of Islam spoke: “The moon is my lantern, my sandals are my chariot, and the morning sun is my winter’s fire.” The ashes represent the Old Testament prophet Job, who was content to live in such. According to Kosorok, “In their examples we are taught that God in His infinite wisdom is always ready to remind us of what is truly important, and has complete power to remove all that is not. All that is needful is found in active acceptance of the Divine Will.” This fine web of symbols and ideas together testify to the Divine Will and again, temporality provides only earthly distractions to a universality, of which all religions considered will readily agree.

After my experience with him, I do not think that Andrew Kosorok would mind if I describe him as anachronistic. I think he will be happy to know that I envision him among untold numbers of unnamed men who were masters of their art and created not for the sake of art but for the sake of spiritual expression and enlightenment -- a type of artistic expression that is all but extinct in a secular world but is where art is historically and ideologically grounded. I am impressed by the beauty and complexity of Kosorok’s glass, baffled by the untold process, moved by the secrets that they hold and ultimately awed by the conviction and dedication that marries Kosorok to his art… his unquenchable desire to seek and know truth.


Related Event
Roots and Wings
Transcending Boundaries Through Poetry and Music

Sholeh WolpeOn Thursday, October 6 award-winning poet Sholeh Wolpé (Rooftops of Tehran) will read from and discusses her work in conjunction with Andrew Kosorok's 99 Most Beautiful Names exhibit. Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-American poet who has made a significant mark in the vibrant and growing literature of the Mideast diaspora. Her poems are political, satirical, and unflinching in the face of war, tyranny and loss. Of Wolpé 's work former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has said, "In a world where cultures and religions are recklessly facing off, Sholeh Wolpé writes careful poems that cast a light on some of what we all hold in common." And novelist Chris Abani writes, "Talismanic and alchemical, they attempt to transmute experience into the magic of the imagined. But they also dare to be tender and funny lyrical moments."

PasteUps
New Dates, New Genres & New Murals
SL Art Center's First Fridays, New Genres Gallery, Urban Gallery & Swinj Productions

The Salt Lake Art Center is going rogue. Starting this month, they are moving their exhibition receptions to the first Friday of the month. They will still be open late on third Fridays during Salt Lake’s Gallery Stroll, but from now on they will be opening a new show on the first Friday of each month. The center’s director, Adam Price, is hopeful that the openings, which along with the art will feature a DJ, cash bar and food, will become “a monthly celebration of the vitality of Utah’s art community. I’m also hoping that this will be a chance for our hardworking gallerists to enjoy themselves away from the hubbub of Gallery Stroll.”

The Art Center’s move to the first Friday is part of their ongoing effort to throw open their doors and use their prime real estate as a community center. Over the past eighteen months attendance at the Art Center has increased six fold. This is due to a number of factors, one of which is that they have hosted events for various outside organizations, and have filled their own social calendar with parties and fundraisers for patrons, staff and members. They have also been expanding their gallery space, most recently with the addition of the Locals Only Gallery, which opened last month (see our review).

New Genres Gallery
This month, for the inaugural First Friday Celebration on October 7th, the Art Center will be kicking off several exciting new exhibitions and opportunities. The New Genres Gallery, in what used to house the center’s accounting staff, will launch with an exhibit by Los Angeles artist Brian Bress. "Creative Ideas for Every Season" is a single channel video, which “explores the difficulties and absurdities confronting the pursuit of a creative process.” In the video a female protagonist travels across a moon-like landscape in a cardboard jalopy engaging in deadpan conversation with a series of imagined fantastical characters. The New Genres Gallery will provide a committed space for the center to feature contemporary artists from around the world who incorporate video, performance, installation, digital media and mixed media in their work. With this and the Locals Only Gallery, the center has nearly doubled the exhibition space available for visitors to explore.

Lecture Series
Also opening this month (in the Main Gallery), Doublespeak features the work of contemporary female artists who use strategies of code and layered meaning to explore issues of politics, war and gender from a feminine perspective. Included among the many artists in the exhibit are Guggenheim Fellow Jennifer Nelson, 2011 Venice Biennial artist Daniela Comani, and 2011 Rome Prize recipient Mary Reid Kelly. Coinciding with the opening of Doublespeak is the first talk in Salt Lake Art Center’s 2011 Fall Lecture Series. Iranian-American poet Sholeh Wolpé will speak and give a reading from Rooftops of Tehran at 7pm on October 7th.

Provo and Ogden, who hold their own gallery walks on the first Friday, may not be overjoyed at the Art Center’s move; and West Temple is not the only place in Salt Lake for art openings at the beginning of the month – the Utah Arts Alliance, a block away on Main Street, holds their exhibition receptions on the first Friday; but if Adam Price has his way, food, drink, music and art will put the first Friday and Salt Lake Art Center on many people’s calendar.

Neighborhood House in Salt Lake, photo by Will Thompson
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Urban Gallery & Swinj Art Productions
The Art center likes parties so much that they even hold them away from home. In September, they joined Neighborhood House |0| for this year’s installation of the Urban Gallery, a 337 Project event that has continued now that that organization has become part of the Art Center.|1|

In past years, Urban Gallery has been a competition between several artists or teams of artists to see who could create the best work of art on a garage door. This year, the entire suite was given to Swinj Art Productions to design after their proposal for an integrated work was accepted by the Salt Lake Art Center. On September 23rd and 24th Trent Call, Benjamin Wiemeyer,|3| Evan Jed Memmott, Gailon Justus, Mike Murdock, Richard Landvatter, Skyler Chuback, and Sri Whipple attacked the eight doors at the west side day-care and support facility. "It was really fun to watch [the team] work collaboratively," says Neighborhood House board member Catherine Kanter. "You could see how they were being influenced by each other. The end product turned out to be a unified piece that flows from door to door with high energy, bold colors and vivid imagery."

You may know Swinj as the name of the collaborative art zine Trent Call produced between 1999 and 2009 (see our article). The collaboration has expanded to include street art projects. The organization, with a fluid roster of artists, is responsible for several murals around town, including The Salt Lake Running Company at 7th East and I-80 (Chuck Landvatter, David Habben, Dan Christopherson, Trent Call, Ben Weimeyre, Gaillon Justus) |9-11| and the Broadway mural between State and Main. On getting the commissions, Call says “Most often there is one artist who is contacted by the owner of the wall, and recruits the others to help out.” In the actual production of the murals, Call says that they sometimes work from a loose sketch as a jumping off point, but things change and there is some free styling and plenty of discussion about ideas and direction. Call remarks “With the handful of walls getting a paint job in the recent years, hopefully it will inspire more owners of walls to add some color to their life.”


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