White Linen Night to feature the Glass Sculptures of Gene Koss

01:00 July 30, 2013
By: Dean Shapiro

Sponsored by Whitney Bank, White Linen Night will be held this year on Saturday, August 3. From 6 - 9 p.m. in the closed-off 300 to 700 blocks of Julia Street, stages will be set up for live entertainment featuring some of New Orleans' top bands. In addition, there will be conveniently situated kiosks selling food and beverages from some of New Orleans' top restaurants and bars. Complimentary handheld fans are traditionally given out by the galleries to help keep strollers cool on what is likely to be a typically hot summer evening.

The event is free and open to the public. During the three hours of White Linen Night the two dozen or so art galleries on or adjacent to Julia Street open their doors to art afi cionados and casual strollers alike. Those who get into the spirit of the occasion wear white outfi ts and some even wear white hats, in keeping with an old New Orleans tradition.

Immediately following the WLN event, the nearby Contemporary Arts Center (900 Camp Street) hosts its annual White Linen Night party, with live music, refreshments and more artwork on display. There is an admission charge for the event, but it is a fun way to keep the evening going after the block party is over. The CAC party usually ends around midnight.

Gene Koss Glass Sculptures on Display at Arthur Roger Gallery

One of the highlights of this year’s White Linen Night is the opening of a monthlong exhibition of the glass and steel sculptures of world-renowned sculptor Gene Koss. The exhibition will be held at Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia Street, through the end of August.

A Wisconsin native and University of Wisconsin, River Falls graduate, Koss has taught sculpture at Tulane University since 1976. As he explains, “I took over their ceramics department and started a glass sculpture program there. Glass kind of won over. I started small and now we have an internationally known program in glass, which took several years to build.”

Thanks to funding from the university and grants from the Pace sauce picante company, a 12,000-square-foot complex was built on campus that now houses about eighty graduate students from all over the world. “We are working with glass in a creative way. I’m a sculptor, not just a glass blower. I want the work coming out of there to stand up in the fi ne arts world of sculpture making,” Koss said.

Describing the thought process that goes into creating his sculptures, especially the largescale pieces, Koss noted that it all begins with sketches. When he designs something that he decides to build, it then becomes an engineering process. He will construct a maquette and proceed from that scale model. Using the large studio at Tulane for the actual casting, he explains, “I surround myself with fabricators and engineers. There’s a lot of work that goes into the building of it: the metal work, the glass, connecting the proportions and all the other components of the process.

“I like pieces that come off the fl oor rather than go off the pedestal,” Koss explains. “I work best at a certain scale but you have to be real careful when you do that so you hit the target. When you’re working with glass and steel they have to become ‘one’ in terms of how they’re put together. So we spend a lot of time on how things are put together properly.”

The largest of the pieces going into the Arthur Roger show is called “Sunrise,” standing roughly 14-15 feet off the fl oor and weighing several tons. The glass components are assembled side by side atop an arc-like steel beam, each one different than the one(s) next to it. Coming from a family of farmers, Koss notes that the glass components “take on the characteristics of the land. There are footprints in it. Plowed fi elds. I want to show the glass being used. It’s not just one-dimensional. There’s color in it, and holes. Some are embossed, so there’s a push and pull with the material. I’m very sensitive to the materials that I use.”

So, what do pieces of this grand scale sell for?

“From six fi gures on down,” Koss answers. But, he quickly continues, “The money part of the work is not the driving force. It’s more important that the piece got made. I didn’t get into the arts to make a lot of money at it. It’s a love and I’ve got to be in that studio working.”

Koss’ show at Arthur Roger will consist of ten maquettes, one monumental piece (“Sunrise”), and three other medium-range pieces.

For a list of White Linen Night’s Warehouse Arts District participating galleries, visit neworleansarts-district.com/galleries. For more information about the Gene Koss exhibition, call Arthur Roger Gallery at (504) 522-1999, or visit arthurrogergallery.com.

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