The Permission of the Mind
Howard Ben Tré
Using methods learned in his metal-foundry class at Brooklyn Technical High School, Howard Ben Tré pioneered the art of casting molten glass long before YouTube tutorials and Facebook casting groups existed. His hands-on technical innovations changed what was possible in cast glass and allowed Ben Tré to create career defining monumental sculptures that could survive the rigors of outdoor installation.
Among Ben Tré’s public commissions are the award-winning installation of fountains and seating created for Post Office Square Park in Boston; the plaza and sculpture for BankBoston’s headquarters in downtown Providence; an interactive fountain for the hall of the renovated Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston; the pedestrianization and street scheme redesign of Warrington Town Center in England; and plazas with sculpture/fountains and landscaping for Target Corporation Headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Whether casting glass for public spaces or personal series, Ben Tré found inspiration in the geometry of ancient ritual objects and historical architecture. His Wrapped Forms (1998 - 2000) evoke the relics and customs of Asian ritual while Lightness of Being (2008) juxtaposes fragility and strength, masculine and feminine. As light is transmitted, diffused, and refracted through the dense glass mass, Ben Tré’s sculpture takes on a mysterious life of its own. Sections of the glass were treated with gold leaf either on the surface or by installing gold leaf covered lead bars within the glass matrix, adding to the magic.
Public and personal work plays off one another, sparking new ideas and forms. In fact, they emanate from the same source— Ben Tré’s desire to use art to bring people together in our collective humanity. Whether viewed in a public square or a private gallery, his cast glass returns us to the realm where utopian visions and social ideals don’t seem so foolish. Ben Tréreminds us that if we give our minds permission, anything is possible.
Ben Tré’s work is included in numerous private collections in the US, Europe and Asiaand in more than 101 museum and public collections worldwide, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nice. He has been featured in 54 solo exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad, including a ten-year retrospective organized by the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, that traveled nationally, and a retrospective exhibition at the Glass Art Museum in Toyama, Japan. Other one-person exhibitions of sculptures and drawings include those organized by the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain in Nice; the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University; the Toledo Museum of Art; and the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1949, Ben Tré received a B.S.A. from Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, in 1978 and a M.F.A from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1980. He is a three-time recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a three-time recipient of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Fellowship. His achievements in the visual arts were recognized by the First Annual Pell Awards for Excellence in the Arts (1996), the Artist Award of Distinction by the National Council of Art Administrators (2005), and the Aileen Osborn Webb Award (2006). His public art has been recognized with awards by the Providence Preservation Society for Urban Design (1998), the British Council for Shopping Centres for Town Centre Environment (2002), and the Royal Town Planning Institute for Best Urban Design Project (2002).
Currently 40 years of drawings, works on paper, lecture notes and a number of sculptures in the Ben Tre’ collection dating back to 1977 are being assembled and archived for research purposes.