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Artist of the Month
February 2021

Artist of the Month

Oben Abright

Oben Abright is a multi-disciplinary artist who works primarily with glass in combination with other materials including concrete, bronze, and found objects. His unique use and mastery of the technique of mold-blown glass enables Abright to depict the essence of his subjects in a manner rarely seen in the studio glass world. Abright is represented by Austin Art Projects, Palm Desert, CA, where he will be having a one person exhibition in March and April.

Click on each photo to the right for a full picture.

Oben Abright

Artist of the Month

Artist Statement:

Since I was a child, I have been doing portraits. My work portrays what I see in the faces and experiences of specific people around me. Each portrait represents a personal relationship between the artist and subject. Life is so temporary, and each human face is so unique. Time changes them until they are gone, but the portrait remains timeless. I have always been fascinated with capturing life through art - the personalities of people beyond the gesture of the human form. I sculpt individuals with the goal of representing them with accuracy and compassion. Their visage is documented by my impression of them through sculpture. My subjects are people who exemplify the struggle of hope, poverty, loneliness, isolation, addiction, war, homelessness, love, and all the beautiful chaos of being alive in our time and place in this world.

As a figurative sculptor working in clay, I wanted to show more of the internal struggles behind the still face of a figure. Human emotion is a subject often hidden under our skin and behind our eyes. This desire to reveal the internal landscape of the human mind has led me to pursue the transparency of glass. A glass figure conveys the fragility of life and the luminous presence of a living being by trapping light and color refracted through the body of the subject.

My material choices have expanded to include not only glass but concrete, aluminum, steel, and bronze, and are ever-evolving to comment and connect to the complex human condition. The labels of fast fashion and textures of cheap fabrics are made precious when translated into other mediums, grounding the figure in our time and place.

My sculptures deconstruct the classical figure as a weathered relic of decadence. The exaltation of beauty is damaged and surrounded by the refuse of empires in decline. 

My work transitions from a deep focus on figure study, to interpreting the body as a hollow transparent vessel, which carries our memories and describes an emotional state through color and light. It becomes a time capsule, to be filled with the debris of our consumptive age.

About Oben Abright

Oben Abright is a mid-career figurative sculptor living in Oakland, California. Born in 1980 in San Francisco, the son of artists, Oben spent his early years drawing, painting, and making clay sculptures in their studio. He excelled at art in school which led to his pursuit of formal training. After studying at the Lorenzo de Medici Institute of Art in Florence, Italy, he attended the California College of the Arts (CCAC) and received a Bachelor of Fine Art in glass in 2004. While there, he was fortunate to study under Arthur Gonzalez and Bella Feldman, but most notably Clifford Rainey, whose concept-rich figurative glass inspired Oben to expand his material choices beyond his original interest in clay, and transfer his energies to understanding the properties of glass. This gave Oben the opportunity to convey the fragility of his subjects by trapping refracted light and color and illuminate his sculptures from within. His process is to draw from live models, then model them in clay as a classical sculptor, before realizing them in his unique medium of mold-blown glass.

During his senior year of college at CCAC, Oben lived and worked out of a studio located south of Market Street in San Francisco. Many homeless people congregate in this area, and as Oben became familiar with the people, he began sculpting them. His Market Street Series was inspired by these individuals, using the beauty of the medium to draw the viewer in, giving intimate focus to people neglected by society the viewer might otherwise avoid or ignore. This led to a breakout show generating interest from several galleries and collectors.

In 2008, Oben traveled to Burma and witnessed the frightening desperation of people living on the fringes of society in a war zone. He returned to the U.S. deeply moved, and this experience inspired a new body of work. The show, titled Portraits of Loi Tai Lang Burma, opened at the launch of Karen Echt’s namesake gallery in Chicago in the fall of 2010. This series portrayed the resilience and spirit of the people Oben encountered in war torn Burma.

Shortly after, Oben relocated his studio to West Oakland, where he continued to create works inspired by people who exemplify the struggle of poverty, isolation, and addiction. These experiences led Oben to pursue a residency in 2011, joining artist James McLeod, among others, for Floating World Projects, a partnership between Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, MA, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, Israel, and the Mimar Sinan Fine Art University in Istanbul, Turkey.

In 2012, Oben was offered a show at Imago Gallery from David Austin. Austin has placed many of Oben's sculptures in private collections and museums, including The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and the Palm Springs Art Museum. He continues to be represented by Austin Art Projects of Palm Desert, California.

In 2016, Oben relocated from his West Oakland studios and purchased a building in East Oakland to develop a new studio and showroom. At a 2018 residency at the Tacoma Museum of Glass, he was able to utilize the team working under Benjamin Cobb to elaborate on his color pallet using century-old techniques in combination with his established processes. This culminated in a body of work shown at Hohmann Gallery in Palm Desert, CA, in 2019. He is currently developing a new series of mixed media portraits that acknowledge the path he has traveled and he continues to express in the realm of sculpture.

Abright’s work is included in many significant private and public collections. He will be having a one-person exhibition with Austin Art Projects in March and April of this year.

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Acknowledgment of Gallery:
We are grateful to Austin Art Projects, Palm Desert, California, for providing the Artist of the Month.

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Our Mission

The Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to further the development and appreciation of art made from glass.

The Alliance informs collectors, critics and curators by encouraging and supporting museum exhibitions, university glass departments and specialized teaching programs, regional collector groups, visits to private collections, and public seminars.