Independent from Long Beach, California on September 24, 1967 · Page 111
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Independent from Long Beach, California · Page 111

Long Beach, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 24, 1967
Page 111
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Agostinho Rodriguez with a few of the art objects he has crested through the use of ground glass from waste bottles. Masterpieces From Empty Bottles Story and Photos by JACK B. KEM MERER HTHE SHORT, S T O C K Y , gray-haired man with twinkling eyes pointed excitedly to his strange looking contraption. "Here's the machine that does the work!" he said. "Watch." With that, he dropped an empty glass bottle in the top. There was a sudden harsh, whirring noise, as the gears grabbed the spinning bottle. . In a matter of seconds the bottle was demolished. It dropped out the bottom of the machine in the form of ground glass onto a stack of trays with wire-mesh bottoms. ' The machine, with the aid of its owner, had just made a new material that is being used in the creation of fine pieces of sculpture. The ground glass coming from the machine can be handled without any danger from slivers or cuts--there are no sharp edges. Agostinho Rodrigues, famed Portuguese sculptor, takes the ground glass and, working with it cold, creates any type of art form desired. The result- tog piece is unbreakable, cannot rust or corrode and can be made translucent. AGOSTINHO RODRIGUES is tremendously excited about his new material, and for good reasons. He believes it will open up new fields for the use of art forms. It can be molded so fine a fingerprint will show in perfect detail; it can also be made into a mural or glass wall hundreds of feet long. And, probably most important of all, it is durable. As far as Rodrigues knows, this is the first time that glass has ever been mold- Eighf ed cold. He believes it has a particularly large potential in architecture because of its extreme durability and ability to create a new dimension by radiation of light through glass--this causes a flat surface to become two-dimensional. He can make any form, any shape, any dimension with absolutely no breakage, and any form of casting may be used by changing the resins added to the ground glass. Most artists are content to work with existing materials in their chosen fields-this Is especially true when they have achieved fame. This is not true of Rodrigues, however. To understand his constant drive for new effects through the use of new materials it is necessary to know a little about Rodrigues the man. Born 54 years ago in Portugal's Madeira Islands, Rodruges did not have the proverbial spoon in his mouth. In fact, his family was extremely poor and lived in a small hut with a dirt floor. Rodrigues sold papers on the streets at the age of 5, adding his bit to the family's meager income. THE FEW PENNIES gained daily in this manner were not enough, so young Rodrigues made some crude tools from an old umbrella frame and sculptored tiny clay figures which he sold to tourists --all of this at the age of 5. He inherited .artistic talents from his mother, a designer of Madeira embroidery. Unable to buy tools or materials; he was always improvising on both items. When Agostinho was 10 years old Dr. Gunther Maul, German scientist sent to Madeira by the Portuguese government to reorganize the zoological exhibits there, was walking down the street in Madeira. As Dr. Maul paused at a street crossing he felt a tug on his coattails. Looking down, he saw little Agostinho Rodrigues. All the boy wanted was to sell Dr. Maul a piece of his sculpture, but he ended up with a job at Madeira's Natural History Museum. Eight years later Rodrigues won a competition sponsored by the British Museum in London to create a display of their sharks. During the. years that followed he became recognized as an expert in the then unusual field of using sculpture for visual education in biology. During his stay in London Rodrigues also made portraits of many famous people and his sculptures are to be found in private collections and museums of Portugal, the Azores, Madeira, Brazil, England and the United states. At the end of World War II, Rodrigues was sent by the government of Portugal to the United States for advanced studies at New York's famed Museum of Natural History. It was at this time that he decided that of all the places he had lived and worked, the United States offered the most freedom and opportunity for artistic expressions. RODRIGUES HAS always worked extensively with children in both Europe and the United States. In fact, he claims his formula for success Is that he is still a child himself. "You see," he says, "I am child. I never want to grow up, for will die. When I stop looking at things through the eyes of a child, I am too for art." In his Los Angeles studios Rodrigues has searched often for new materials In which to present his creations. He worked with ground rocks, asbestos and other materials until he stumbled upon the idea of using glass. "I kept looking for a material that would be very cheap and, at the same time, available everywhere," he recalls. It suddenly dawned upon him that perhaps old glass bottles would be the answer. They were everywhere and of many beautiful colors. Rodrigues knew he would have to work 5n the glass with his hands so developed a machine that would grind the bottles so that no sharp edges were exposed. Following the development of his machine came many months of experimenting to find the right resin that would bind the powdery glass particles into a solid, durable substance. Since beginning his experiments he has made many beautiful tilings--all from waste bottles--and his creations are in demand by interior decorators all over the country. Now he is working his greatest dream--to spread his process all over the world. "Many people who are now poor in other countries could use this process at very little cost. It would give the poor artists of the world a chance to make of their artistic talents," Rodrigues says. Soufhland M*g«i"«

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