Glacial Movements

When artist Fritz Horstman last visited Middlesex in 2018, the Bass Pavilion and the Danoff Center for the Visual Arts were under construction, and his unique work exploring the concepts of time and space had to be shared through photographs. In 2022, however, he could fill the Ishibashi Gallery with more recent pieces in his exhibition Glacial Movements, which opened on March 31, 2022, with a well-attended reception filled with artists, students, and faculty. Later returning to campus on May 14, Mr. Horstman addressed the entire community during morning assembly and explained the ideas, processes, and materials that inform his work.

Mr. Horstman first discussed his fascination with cyanotypes, which were displayed on two gallery walls. Instead of using this familiar, historical process to produce silhouettes of ferns and flowers, he inventively captures the complex patterns that are produced when intricately folded papers are treated with photographic fluid and then exposed to light.

“Why am I so focused on this?” he asked. “It has something to do with the two- and three-dimensional relationship.” Once unfolded, a two-dimensional cyanotype “has the memory of three dimensions built into it,” resulting in beautiful, blue-and-white geometric designs.

Turning to the three-dimensional sculptures that comprised most of the exhibition, Mr. Horstman detailed his interest in glaciers, which he even studied at the Arctic Circle during an artist’s residency there. “When glaciers have receded, they leave a U-shaped valley,” he said, noting Yosemite as a famous example. “I focus on glaciers for formal reasons.”

In sculptures of varying sizes, he replicates that U-shaped landscape with a range of materials. While one work was fashioned from rough-cut segments of wood, others were as smoothly finished as furniture. A knitted green valley was airily suspended from the gallery’s ceiling, with more substantial sculptures grounded nearby, constructed from sandwiched textiles, cushions, crates, or tubing – reflecting his effort to recycle materials.

Through his reflections on form and void, flatness and three-dimensionality, nature and culture, and sustainability and consumerism, Mr. Horstman gave Middlesex students and faculty a great deal to think about.