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Summer of Glass at the FWMoA

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader

2013-08-15


"Art Stars" are a necessary function of the global art world that we live with. These unique celebrities are the most enviable of all, being that they have the perception of total creative freedom, resulting in subsequent economic freedom as well. Dale Chihuly has taken a role, since the death of Warhol, as one of the most iconic figures in the art world. His celebrity status, based on his manipulation of glass with greater flamboyance than any time in its history, as well as his ability to be incredibly prolific, have allowed his art to inhabit collections and locations around the world.

Chihuly's vibrant and organic forms have allowed his work to be seen in many different contexts as well. From academic and commercial, and hybridized forms in between, Chihuly has made glass worth seeing in many ways. The Fort Wayne Museum of Art's "Summer of Glass" trio of exhibitions, including "Chihuly: Secret Garden," sponsored by Lincoln, Parkview, and Steel Dynamics, expresses this diversity of work by exhibiting a group of Chihuly's famous "Macchias," "Blue Herons," "Red Belugas," and "Neodymium Reeds," many of which are examples of his work which exist in a version, at least, residing among botanical gardens throughout our nation. In particular, FWMoA partnered with the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus to bring together this work. Chihuly's "Macchia" alone, while simple, garner the viewer's attention as they catch the light of the gallery and begin to project their two dimensional, layered spirits across its walls.

And while Chihuly is always worth a look and a "must know" within the canon of contemporary art, his work also waxes and wanes quickly, leaving a "Oh that is very nice" feeling while the viewer is still ensconced within the exhibition's space. Luckily, and in a bold and quite shrewd tactic, the Museum has also partnered with the suburban Detroit Habatat Galleries, famous in their own right for their work with glass artists. Ferdinand and Kathy Hampson, owners of Habatat, have made a very successful career in creating traveling exhibitions, and have worked with many public and private entities in this way. The Hampson's "41st Annual International Glass Invitational Award Winners" and "The Next Generation of Studio Glass" include an incredible number of talented artists representing remarkable work.

Artists like Michael Behrens, Udo Zembok, Jiyong Lee use glass in very sculptural and tectonic ways, using large slabs of glass, being cast and carved, and projecting themselves into physical environment less through the transmission of light, but more through mass. Michael Behrens, a German born artist, includes "Underwater-World 2010-207," a 2010 kiln cast glass piece is seemingly a simple sharks fin from a distance, until the viewer walks around the piece enough to realize that what in the beginning seemed to be the object's consistent color, is actually a large series of ribbons of color, thread through the piece fracturing it and producing a great deal of interactions as the viewers eye explores its vantage point of the piece. Behrens states, "I am addicted to making art; to putting all of my love, passion and pain into these sculptures. It takes years to accept the vocation of an artist. I have made this commitment for the rest of my life." This passion and skill is obvious taking account of the delicacy and strategy used in the making of "Underwater."

Other Habatat Award winners include Toots Zynsky’s "Avvincente," an example of the exceptionally rare method of "filet de verre," which is the process of pulling glass threads from hot glass canes, which gives her work such a time consuming and antiqued feel. Artists like Udo Zembok and Brent Kee Young round out the wide range diversity of this exhibition with their pieces "Noir-Orange Eclipse," a large Joseph Albers-esque piece of fused glass, and "Matrix series: Homage…", a flame worked barely recognizably possible piece of sculpture glass that is easily the most fragile and ethereal in the exhibition, respectively. Zembok's piece is particularly interesting in its lack of reference to Albers in its title, but striking formal similarity to pieces like "Homage to the Square". Kee Young's "Homage…" is literally shaking with fragility as its fused glass vibrates with the sound and shuffling of visitors.

And finally, what is most likely one of the most subtle and overlooked pieces in this exhibition is Jiyong Lee, a Korean born artist, and their work, "White Embryo Segmentation," a cut, carved, and laminated glass piece, which looks something like the combination of a white or clear gummy bear, and a lima bean. In its simplicity, "Segmentation" allows itself to settle into the viewers mind, and allow them to project an endless stream of questions and hypotheses of "Why?" and "What?" while quietly existing. Lee astutely only gives the clues of segmentation lines laterally, as well as bicoid and nanos diminishing from anterior to posterior, making this embryo distinctly of the arthropod family, but gives no clue to the species.

While the Fort Wayne Museum of Art's "Summer of Glass" is largely composed of exhibitions on loan from Habatat Galleries, it has expertly brought an incredibly diverse and professional set of distinct exhibitions bringing glass, which many times is overlooked as only craft, into realm of the fine arts, challenging our ideas of mass, texture, color, and general form. This education of the Fort Wayne viewer is both comforting and welcome!


For More Information:
41st Annual International Glass Invitational Award Winners
June 29-September 29, 2013
Fort Wayne Museum of Art

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