Crystal clear: Jeff Zimmerman mimics nature’s symmetry with new glass works

Crystal clear: Jeff Zimmerman mimics nature’s symmetry with new glass works

Two years ago, Jeff Zimmerman came across a photo of the 980-ft deep Cave of the Crystals — a Fortress of Solitude-like cavern in Naica, Mexico — that was so awe-inspiring it seemed as if the image was captured on another planet. ‘It definitely struck a chord,’ says Zimmerman, who began collecting minerals and exploring the wildernesses of the southwestern United States. In the wake of his studies, he started creating a new series of glass sculptures (wall installations, chandeliers, illuminated structures and vessels) based on the linear geometry found in geologic entities. ‘It’s a continuation of the vocabulary I use, which is studying recurring patterns – the spiral, the sphere, branching, cracking....’

This week, 20 lustrous abstractions of those patterns go on display as part of Zimmerman’s fifth solo show at New York’s R & Company. ‘In this show, there’s less of the biomorphic,’ explains Zimmerman, whose collapsed spherical vessels and lighting elements (some grafted with hand-blown crystals) have become sensations in the design world over the past decade. One of his latest discoveries in nature is the right-angled patterns formed by different crystals and minerals. ‘They can create these perfect squares that look like they were produced by a computer,’ he continues. He chose to interpret those patterns via stacks of glass cubes that were blown with silver inside them, the same way antique mirrors were once crafted. ‘Trying to make the invisible visible is a lot of what I think about when I’m working.’

In addition to the squares, Zimmerman has also blown a number of crystals in the forms of large extruding chandeliers that mimic those in the Mexican cave (in blue, black and white mold-formed glass) and more discrete crystal formations trapped inside high-gloss smoked glass bubbles that appear to be replicating themselves, the same way soap bubbles form under a running faucet. ‘Those are more about interior architecture and looking inside,’ says Zimmerman. ‘Even though I use repetition a lot,’ he notes, ’each of the forms are different.’

At R & Company, he hopes the immersive quality of the exhibition — with numerous large and small versions of these repeating forms (some of which weigh more than 500 pounds) spread throughout the entire ground floor of the Tribeca space — will recreate to some extent the surrealist mise-en-scene scientists must experience in the Naica cave. ‘I don’t want it to be pretty,’ says Zimmerman. ‘But disturbing beauty, that’s the attempt.’

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