National Museum of American Art

Washington, D.C.

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Renwick Gallery Showcases Glass! Glorious Glass!


Glass! Glorious Glass!,on view September 24, 1999 - January 30, 2000 at the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery, features work by forty-one master artists pushing the boundaries of glass as a medium for artistic expression.

"There's an incredible variety of exciting work within the glass world today," said Kenneth Trapp, the Renwick's curator-in-charge, "and we want to inform the publicabout glass as a medium by introducing them to some of the artists across the country who are really exploring it." The exhibition is the first in a proposed series examining the Renwick Gallery's permanent collection. The Renwick is a curatorial department of the National Museum of American Art.

The fifty-six objects in the show attest to a range of techniques and philosophical approaches. Methods include casting, slump molding, blowing, assembling, and lampworking. Some works add a layer of ironic reference ("glass about glass"), transmuting traditional technique and function, while others revel in a straighter approach to the art and craft of the medium.

Many of the objects present glass within unusual and unfamiliar contexts. Seattle-based artist Mary Van Cline prints dark photographic images of draped and masked models on thick slabs of glass. Haunting and moody, The Listening Point (1999) examines the effect of shrouding and contemplates the duality of good and evil. Los Angeles artist Therman Statom manipulates pre-existing glass in the lush, multi-layered Arabian Seasons (1994), approaching the piece as a painter/sculptor/assemblage artist.

Other surprising works include Susie Krasnican's clever Dress for Success (1997), a silhouette of a dress cut from glass, the bodice painted in enamels and the skirt pleated with etched phrases such as "Experience is a good teacher, but she sends terrific bills" and "It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers." Marvin Lipofsky examines surface-treatment variations through copperplating, sandblasting, and flocking in the strangely weaponlike Form #25 and Form #28 (both 1968).

Walter Zimmerman's disturbing and sinister mixed-media sculpture of lampworked glass and industrial found objects was donated to the Renwick by glass artist Dale Chihuly, who is himself represented by five works.

Some objects suggest more common glass associations. Mark Matthews' Exotic Mammal Pelt Spheres (1999) evoke decorative paperweights. Vibrant red and other colored glass threads form Toots Zynsky's Hot Chaos IV (1996), a richly textured bowl. Shake Your Booty (1998) by Alan Goldfarb is one of many variations on vessels. "Aged" with a scavo surface of silver leaf and sandy feldspar matte coating, the blown-glass goblet evokes ritual and relic with references to ancient and Bavarian glass, the Early Church, and archaeology.

In its examination of glass production methods pushed to new levels of mastery, the exhibition presents a number of technical feats. Karla Trinkley's Rosette (1994), a large construction cast from pulverized glass in a plaster mold, was fired over a period of several weeks. Glittering in pale pink and green, its delicate surface contradicts its chunky form, while patterned cutouts suggest prefab concrete blocks.

Cast in opaque yellow glass, Gomer (1989-90), an expressionistic bust by Hank Murta Adams, is as astonishing for its loose, rubbery-looking surface as its intense presence. The gemlike delicacy of a set of four liturgical vessels (Liturgical Vessel Series #3: Flagon, Sacrificial Chalice, Paten, and Ciborium,1999) by Roger Parramore contrasts with the sculptural presence created by their oversized scale.

"It is an extremely broad show," Trapp said. "This exhibition highlights very deserving artists at their national craft museum, in addition to opening up an important dialogue about where the museum's permanent collection is now and where it's going." Future exhibitions in this proposed series would explore the Renwick's holdings in clay, metal, wood, and fiber.

The exhibition is made possible in part by the Smithsonian's Special Exhibition Program. The Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass and Elmerina and Paul Parkman have provided funding for the exhibition brochure.

The Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art is dedicated to exhibiting American crafts of all periods and to collecting 20th-century American crafts. The Renwick is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street, near the Farragut Metrorail stations. Museum hours are from 10 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. daily, closed December 25. Admission is free.

Images from top to bottom: Susan Stinsmuehlen-Amend, The Memory of Touch, 1994, Richard Jolley, Nine Views, 1995; Thermon Statom, Arabian Seasons, 1994; Richard Marquis, Teapot Goblets, 1991-94; Susie Krasnican,Dress for Success , 1997; Dale Chihuly,Emerald Green Blanket Cylinder with Cerulean Blue Drawing, 1984, Hank Murta Adams, Gomer ,1989-90:Dan Dailey, Huntress, 1993; Carol Cohen, White Fish II, 1992; Harvey Littleton, Opalescent Red Crown, 1983; Tom Patti, Bi-AxialTubated Green Riser, 1985

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