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Looking Within: Mark Peiser - The Art of Glass

December 18, 2003 - March 2, 2004

 

Mark Peiser is a local artist with an international reputation. A master of the studio glass movement for 36 years, Peiser's work is in the collections of museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chrysler Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Coming Museum of Glass, the High Museum of Art, the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, the National Museum of American History Smithsonian Institution, La Galerie Internationale du Verre, the Hokkaido Museum of Modem Art, the Lucerne Museum of Art, The People's Republic of China, the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art and many more institutions and private collections. In 1988 he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the American Craft Council and, in 1999, a lifetime member of the Glass Art Society. Now, in the first major museum retrospective of his groundbreaking career, the Asheville Art Museum presents an exhibition which examines and celebrates Mark Peiser's fantastic works in glass. (right: Mark Peiser, Palm Trees and Pond, paperweight Vase #196, 1979, glass., 5.625 x 4.5625 inches, Courtesy of the Artist)

Peiser's pieces are lyrical, luminous, remarkable sculptures which stretch the boundaries of his chosen material. His career can be roughly divided into four periods, and this exhibition examines each in depth. The early work, dating from 1967 through 1975, which Peiser refers to as Experiments and Exercises, are blown pieces which demonstrate the range of his technical innovations. Included in the early works are iridescent miniatures, gather pots, flower forms, and opaque geometric and image vessels. From 1975 through 1981 Peiser created the Paperweight Vases, magical pieces which each contain a small and perfect world within. Roads, trees, flowers, woodland pools and other elements of landscape are depicted within the body of the vessel itself, encapsulated in the glass.

During 1982, Peiser moved from these vessels, which were created through blowing glass in an extremely labor intensive process, to more sculptural cast forms. The Innerspace series were made from 1982 through 1994 and took his focus from the specific to the general, from the small, lyrical particulars of a wisteria branch to the vastness of the mountain sky. Within the Innerspace series, Peiser created effects which he named Light Beams, Ascensions, Muses, Planets and Skyscapes; and the series culminated in his series of Mountain Skyscapes. Since 1994 Peiser's focus has changed yet again, becoming more inward, as he moved for the first time away from glass and into more traditional sculptural materials such as bronze and stone, ultimately returning to glass and examining internal states of consciousness and human nature through the Forms of Consciousness series. These cast, expressive forms are far more sculptural than ever before. Peiser says "1 hoped that with both the Paperweight Vases, and with the Innerspace work, that when you were looking at them you would perceive them as though you were inside them, so that you would have a special relationship with the object. Those pieces had essentially featureless surfaces, and their external forms were supposed to comment only on what was inside. Kind of like the envelope that contains the letter. The new pieces are all about the envelope and I'm hoping the material will comment on the letter."

Born in 1938 in Chicago, Mark Peiser's first career was in industrial design. He studied classical music and engineering as well, and even worked as a railroad fireman. In 1967, Peiser discovered the Penland School of Crafts and took five weeks of glass blowing classes. Within the space of a few months he had moved to North Carolina permanently and become the first Penland School artist-in-residence in glass; he continues to live and work in the Penland area. Glass as an art media was virtually unexplored in the 1960s and 70s, and Peiser found he had to create skills, tools and techniques as he went along. "When I started doing glass, there weren't a lot of options out there. . . nobody knew how to do it. Nobody knew the tools or the materials, nobody knew the processes." (Mark Peiser, quoted in Looking Within: Mark Peiser - The Art of Glass exhibition catalogue) This spirit of technical ingenuity and innovation is central to Peiser's art. He works in his own custom built studio, fashions his own equipment and tools, and has devised his own chemical formulae to create an extremely unique and original body of work.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with an essay by Dan Klein and a conversation with Mark Peiser and Pamela Myers, Executive Director of the Asheville Art Museum. The catalogue is available in the Museum shop. In addition, Mark Peiser will speak about his work in a special Up for Discussion Artist Talk on Friday, March 5, 2004 at 6:00 p.m.

 

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