By Jennifer Levine
It was a chilly evening and the stars glistened in a unique light against the Colorado night sky. It was not cold enough to make your breath float in crystals in front of your face, but you definitely needed a heavier coat to stay warm. The street on the North end of downtown Denver was quiet before we turned the corner. We heard music and saw folks in flat-billed ball caps milling about outside as we walked towards the open door. The inside of Knew Conscious Gallery was dark but had a warm glow of vibrant pastels stretching out from organic and otherworldly glass sculptures. We entered Alex Ubatuba’s world…
Ubatuba has been blowing glass since 2000 but has been creating art all his life. He was always encouraged to create art, so when he took to lamp working his surrealistic visions finally had a voice. His visual influences range from space anomalies to sea forms to invertebrate structures. The unifying theme of these assemblages he asserts is “life underneath the surface, the internal glow of the universe”. His mission is to incorporate this interior world with his outside life as much as possible. To this end he uses his art to build his community via collaborations with friends. The show on March 8th, Illuminating Offerings, was a collaboration between Alex Ubatuba, gallery owner Kurt Redeker, jewelry designer Jason Burruss, DJ Soulacybin and music duo Erothyme. Inside the gallery space the lighting and sounds permeated your senses by creating a breathing habitat of Ubatuba sculptures.
Ubatuba uses freestanding multimedia works of sandblasted glass, LED programmed lighting, plastic inserts and box-shaped bases made of wood. The true beauty of the assemblage components is the grace with which each delicate stem grows effortlessly into bulbous and seemingly gravity-defying huge glass shapes. The forms have an imprint of delicacy yet are structurally sound enough to withstand the harsh cold work of sandblasting. As a glass artist, this shows impressive craftsmanship. Ubatuba attributes this level of detail and workability to the use of lamp working versus the most traditional furnace work. He explains, “We can work more detailed in boro(silicate) because they’re limited in soft glass with the weight and tools. I have experience in welding, which is a similar process to lamp working. Using boro with this experience allows me to go bigger than other blown glass”. The sandblasted surfaces of the independent parts diffuse the LED lighting into soft pastels. The LED lights are programmed to oscillate slowly as to fade from cool to warm colors and back again. This lighting gives the sculptures movement but also allows them to own the space and really create the effect of a surrealistic atmosphere. To walk into a room with Ubatuba’s work is to have a visceral experience. The collaborative effort of his friends’ different mediums makes the shared space that much more poignant.
I would love to share with the reader when to next see an Alex Ubatuba show, but thematic with the mysterious encounters he creates, he prefers the more organic experience of surprise. In his own words, “I prefer to have my work and events pop-up out of nowhere and share it with a community of friends… Makes the nights much more interesting and chill”. This being my first Ubatuba show, I’m not sure how things could get much more interesting. It was an honor to share an evening in his world and a greater honor to meet the man behind the glass.