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Indepth Arts News:

"Contemporary Directions: Glass from the Maxine and William Block Collection "
2002-04-06 until 2002-07-07
Carnegie Museum of Art
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

An exhibition showcasing recent works in glass, Contemporary Directions: Glass from the Maxine and William Block Collection, will be on view at Carnegie Museum of Art from April 6-July 7, 2002. The exhibition of 62 works, created by 49 artists from the United States, Europe, and Australia between 1988 and 2001, chronicles an exciting period of innovation in studio glass.

A complementary exhibition, William Morris: Man Adorned, an installation by Morris, a contemporary studio glass artist renowned for his technical skill and innovative subject matter, will also be on view throughout the run of Contemporary Directions. Studio glass refers to objects created in artists' studios rather than manufactured in large workshops or factories, and the contemporary studio glass movement traces its origins to a series of seminal workshops held at the Toledo Museum of Art in 1962. The workshops led to a new approach the medium. Schools and other institutions launched programs to train those who wanted to work in glass, and artists introduced small furnaces for firing glass into their studios. Subsequently, improved varieties of glass and new techniques possible with better materials and equipment have made the recent decades a period of burgeoning creativity in studio glass.

Like artists who work in other media, contemporary artists working in glass are now free to explore a broad range of ideas, styles, and subjects. The Block collection, which includes works by Dale Chihuly, William Morris, Cappy Thompson, Colin Reid, Maria Lugossy, Klaus Moje, and other important artists, exemplifies a number of trends-the exploration of theoretical ideas; the appropriation of shapes, concepts, and techniques associated with other times, places, or media; the willingness to produce larger-scale artwork; the creation of installations; the inclusion of humor, and narrative, landscape, and figural representation-that characterize contemporary art in other media.

Painters, sculptors, and architects sometimes appropriate form, design, and technique from other eras and other media, and artists working in glass now do likewise. Dante Marioni, for example, adapts classical shapes, but elongates them and uses a much wider color palette. His blown glass Chartreuse and Black Pair (1992), a pitcher and footed vessel that evokes the ancient Greek kylix, or two-handled drinking bowl, has proportions, scale, and bright colors that are purely modern.

Artists working in glass also explore the representational possibilities of the medium. Giles Bettison's Vista #40 (2000) is a representation of the landscape of the mountains and plains of the northern United States as they appear from above. Other representational works include the large-scale, blown glass Zanfirico Pear (1994) by Flora Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick, which was inspired by still life painting, and the blown and painted Madonna (1992) by Liubov Savelyeva.

Several pieces in the Block's collection prove that contemporary studio glass has become a medium capable of exploring formal ideas. Frantisek Vizner's minimalistic Bowl (1998), for example, has a dense, muted color, and because of its scale and classical shape, the work can be appreciated as a formal study of proportion.

One of the more striking changes seen in studio glass works, as well as in the visual arts in general, is an increase in size and scale. Works such as Therman Statom's Midwestern Autumn (1996), in the shape of a ladder over six feet tall, assembled from cut sheet glass with paint and mixed media, exemplify the willingness of artists to express themselves in larger works. Likewise, Kathleen Mulcahy's Persuasion Series: Ravishing (1996) defies the accepted rules governing the size of a perfume bottle.

The Block's collection is a wonderful foray into the themes and trends of contemporary studio glass. In studio glass there are obvious parallels with what's going on in other media, and this is hardly surprising since no artist works in a cultural vacuum. explains Sarah Nichols, curator of decorative art at Carnegie Museum of Art, who co-organized the exhibition along with Davira Taragin, director of the Center for Glass and curator of modern and contemporary glass at Toledo Museum of Art, where it will be shown in 2003. The exhibition design is by Paul Rosenblatt AIA of Springboard: Architecture/Communication/Design.

The Collectors

Maxine and William Block, members of the Block family, which owns Block Communications, the parent company of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade newspaper in Toledo, have been collectors of contemporary art since the late 1940s. They acquired their first pieces of glass in 1988 to decorate their apartment in Toledo. Throughout the 1990s, they have built a collection that contains works by some of the most respected studio glass artists from the United States and abroad.

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