Wilfried Grootens’ work in glass is as evocative as it is precise and as stimulating to our eyes as it is stirring to our hearts. Each piece presents a world separate from, but perfectly situated in, the world around it. If you are fortunate enough to watch him work in his studio, you immediately understand that Wilfried’s prodigious talent stems from his skill both as a painter and a sculptor. The power of his three-dimensional masterpieces is based on his mastery of marks, which he paints with extreme precision on two-dimensional layers of glass, finally gluing them into magical sculptural forms, and then grinding and polishing them to reveal a uniquely orchestrated galaxy.
Art historically, several artists in the 1960s were very successful in their pursuit of creating optical illusions on two-dimensional canvases that would “trick” the eye into perceiving dimension and movement despite the fact that these compelling, illusory images were, indeed, painted on a flat surface. Julian Stanczak, Victor Vasarely, Bridget Riley, Richard Anuszkiewicz, and several others breathed life into the legendary Op Art movement and, today, each is considered a major figure in contemporary art. Visually, their work, with its focus on optics as a legitimate subject in art could well be considered a precedent for the host of other artists who emerged later in the 20th and 21st centuries. It's tempting, and not altogether inaccurate, to think that Wilfried’s work is related to these Op Art masters. However, there are immediately two key differences between his work and theirs. The first is obvious: by working three-dimensionally in the transparent medium of glass within which he precisely calculates the optical impact of each painted mark, Wilfried Grootens’ work surpasses his predecessors’ greatest dreams and ambitions in sheer dimensionality. His work, thus, lives in a world that they would never have conceived. The second major difference between Wilfried’s work and that of the Op Art masters is that while they reveled in optical manipulation toward a goal of deception, Wilfried concentrates on using optics to create a new and fresh reality in each of his sculptures.
I have often said that the medium of glass has exponentially transformed the field of sculpture over the past 50 years by virtue of its ability to expand sculpture beyond a reliance on the traditional elements of art making–color, shape, line, form, and texture–to include the element of light. Bronze, stone, wood, steel, and other materials can be bathed in light but only glass can incorporate the element of light into the sculptural creation. As a medium for art making, glass stands head and shoulders above the rest. And in the specific field of sculpture in glass, Wilfried Grootens’ work rests securely in the top tier of all contemporary glass sculpture in the world. Not only have I had the honor of exhibiting his work, but the Fort Wayne Museum of Art has also proudly added Wilfried’s work to our permanent collection. His is a youthful spirit emanating from a deep and ancient soul. Pay his work close attention and let its magic infuse your heart.
Charles A. Shepard III
President & CEO
Fort Wayne Museum of Art