"Playing with Fire: 50 Years of Contemporary Glass" Exhibition

Museum of Arts & Design

poster for "Playing with Fire: 50 Years of Contemporary Glass" Exhibition

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"Playing with Fire: 50 Years of Contemporary Glass" takes a comprehensive and eye-opening look at the breadth of innovative processes and artistry in contemporary glass. This exhibition showcases an astonishing diversity of works that use glass, from pieces by early adaptors such as Dale Chihuly, who entered MAD’s collection when he was still an emerging artist; to installations by Israeli designer Ayala Serfaty, who creates clouds of light with innovative processes. Also included are pieces by artists and designers not commonly known for their work in glass, such as James Turrell, Donald Lipski, and Ettore Sottsass. There will also be a number of special installations, including Peter Bynum’s “Untitled No. 202”—a wall-mounted triptych made up of thin layers of painted glass mounted on lightboxes, in which viewers can change the brilliance of the multicolored hues by shifting the intensity of light.

Ever since 1962, when a legendary workshop led by renowned glassblower and glass artist Harvey Littleton first presented glassblowing as a possibility for individual artists, artists and designers have continually pushed the material in new directions. This year, MAD celebrates the 50th anniversary of that workshop, considered the birth of the American Studio Glass movement, with Playing with Fire, which will feature more than 100 works of glass from the collection, as well as promised gifts, and additional contemporary works on loan.

Drawn largely from the MAD collection and promised gifts, and including some new installations, the works in the exhibition are organized in two themes: “Color and Light” and “Form and Content.” “Color and Light” includes artists who use luminosity in colored glass to achieve brilliance and saturation of hue, and in transparent glass to manipulate perception of shape and dimension. Notable among them is Toots Zynsky’s multihued vessel is made of hundreds of colored glass threads; when the interior of the vessel is lit, the colors fuse together, shifting dynamically as the light changes. Another highlight is Tom Patti’s “Compacted Solarized Bands,” made out of clear laminated glass, inviting introspection and meditation as the eye explores the subtle optical shifts between layers.

“Form and Content” looks at the ways in which glass adds layers of resonance to subject matter. In Clifford Rainey’s “War Boy—Job Number 1,” spent ammunition is encased within the fragile shell of a young boy’s torso; the metal pieces are dimly seen within the glass figure, suggesting the lasting impact of war that goes beyond surface scars. Some artists like Matt Eskuche and Judith Schaecter both present new takes on historical glass forms. Schaecter uses traditional stained glass techniques, though religious narratives have been replaced with demented children’s toys, while Eskuche’s glass goblets have been “wrung out” and hung to dry.

[Image: Ayala Serfaty "Trust" (2008) glass filaments, polymer web, lighting components. Photo: Albi Serfaty]


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