UPDATED 01/18/2012 and 1/19/2012
The year 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Studio Glass in America, and the Museum of Arts and Design has made an unusual choice to observe this occasion through its upcoming exhibition “Glasstress New York: New Glass from the Venice Biennales.” The decision for an American museum that helped put Studio Glass on the cultural map with major exhibitions of Chihuly and others (in the days it was known as the American Craft Museum) is quite provocative. After all, one could easily point to the under-representation of Studio Glass artists at both GLASSTRESS shows in 2009 and 2011 and wonder how such an exhibition relates to the institution’s own historical role in the advancement of sculpture made from glass. (Editor’s note: Since this item was initially published, the museum has alerted us to a second exhibition honoring Studio Glass called “Playing with Fire” and drawing from the permanent collection of the museum that it is planning to open in October 2012. Look for a follow-up article when more details become available. ) And GLASSTRESS creator Adriano Berengo is an outspoken critic of some aspects of Studio Glass, which he feels suffers from too much focus on the material. In an interview published in the Fall 2011 issue of GLASS Quarterly magazine, Berengo said, “If the Studio Glass movement made a mistake, it was to make a world apart, to engage in an insularity that created, if I may, a kind of material masturbation, more interested in how things are made than about what is made.”
The choice of artists represented in the two GLASSTRESS exhibitions in Venice reflects this sentiment, ranging from from designers to performance artists to animators. Some of these individuals have dabbled in glass, but very few seem to have a strict background in glass. Asked about this, chief curator at the Museum of Arts and Design David McFadden defends the choice to exhibit “Glasstress New York “ as an appropriate way to honor the legacy of Studio Glass by focusing on the future of the use of the material in contemporary art and design.
“It’s happening more and more, artists who do not identify as glass artists are working with glass and I think that’s important now,” McFadden told the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet in a telephone interview, noting that celebrating Studio Glass isn’t just about looking back and acknowledging what has happened, but asking where is the field going? “There will be a lot of shows that will celebrate the historical masterpieces, and I think that’s great, but we’re celebrating looking down the line,” he adds.
The show will definitely differ from other celebratory studio glass exhibitions. For one, most others will honor the strides Americans have made in Studio Glass during the last 50 years. In contrast the Museum of Arts and Design will showcase a broad spectrum of work that spans the globe. “Glasstress New York” will also differ slightly from the exhibition in Venice.
McFadden explains that he selected what he says is the “creme de la creme” of the two Biennale showings and then added a few glass works that he thought were important. The latter includes a piece from Joyce Scott, a beadwork artist in Baltimore, Maryland, who was supposed to be included in this year’s “GLASSTRESS” in Venice, but did not have her work finished in time. A new series by the design group, El Ultimo Grito will also be featured. McFadden describes their work as space-age architectural models cast in transparent glass.
To further celebrate glass art, the Museum of Arts and Design will display one of Beth Lipman’s towering stacks of decadent glass objects in the museum’s front lobby. (Interesting side note: Lipman recently changed her representation from Heller Gallery to the Claire Oliver Gallery in Chelsea, New York.)
“Glasstress New York” opens to the public on February 14th and will run through June 10th, 2012. Museum of Arts and Designassistant curator Elizabeth Kirrane will lead a tour of the exhibition on February 16th, at 6:30 pm, explaining the craft behind glass making and offering insights into the artists’ creative process.
IF YOU GO:
“GLASSTRESS New York: New Glass from the Venice Biennales“
February 14th – June 10th, 2012
Curator Lead Tour: February 16th, 6:30pm
2 Columbus Circle,
New York City, NY