Mint Museum of Craft + Design

Mint Museum of Art

Mint Museum of Craft + Design

Charlotte, NC



Dale Chihuly: Installations

July 24, 1999 - January 9, 2000

He is the American Maestro, the Pied Blowpiper of Studio Glass. Dale Chihuly is one of three living American artists to have a solo exhibition at the Louvre in Paris. His elegant, physics - defying shapes can be found everywhere - as a visual backdrop to the 1996 Academy Awards, suspended over the canals of Venice or prominently displayed in over 175 art museums throughout the world.

Chihuly's designers have taken the measure of Charlotte's Mint Museum of Craft + Design in preparation for a 10 person team of installers. Four tractor-trailer loads of blown glass parts will be assembled into an exhibition to include a spectacular Macchia forest, a Persian Pergola, a sea of Nijima Floats and the renowned Chihuly Chandeliers.

The nation's governors named Chihuly America's first National Living Treasure for his role in transforming a dying craft into a vibrant art form. His hometown of Tacoma, Washington is building the International Glass Museum in his honor, accessible by the Chihuly Bridge, a glass pedestrian structure replete with pavilions. The Pilchuck School of Glass, which Chihuly co-founded in 1971, attracts the world's best glass artists, enabling Seattle to rightfully lay claim as the New Venice of glass production. The PBS television special Chihuly Over Venice was the first national broadcast in high definition television.

Everything about Dale Chihuly is outsized - his custom built equipment, his support staff of 60, the scale of his installations and the spectacular forms that push the edges of art glass beyond anything made anywhere in the world.

"It's that he's completely changed perceptions of what art glass is supposed to look like, taking it out of the 19th century realm of symmetry and mimesis and into the modern world of abstraction," wrote art critic Frank Green. "These flowing, asymmetrical forms dramatize the nature of glass in its chaotic, molten liquid state."

A Dale Chihuly exhibition is as much a theatrical experience - a series of spectacles of light, color and cascading forms that dazzle the eye and confound the imagination with technical wizardry. Each exhibition is designed specifically for the interior and exterior architectural space and light at each site to allow viewers to interact with a total glass environment.

Series of glass works produced between 1964 and 1997 represented in the exhibition include the Macchia, brilliantly multi-colored, flower-like forms placed on pedestals ranging from four to 12 feet in height to create a "forest" in which visitors experience the undulating vessels from various viewpoints. The 30-foot long Persian Pergola, an arbor with over 400 fanciful Persian forms, immerses the viewer in the long, deep patterns of color shadows while walking underneath the arbor. The Venetian series, a tribute to the art deco glass of Venice, features huge vases and bottles sprouting colored vines, leaves and "putti," little boy figures resembling Renaissance cupids or cherubs.

Other artistic series include Ikebana, named after the Japanese custom of placing flowers specifically to honor guests, presents bulbous-base forms supporting elaborate organic glass flora. Placed in white wall niches, the Ikebana act like prisms, playing with light to produce patterns of color and shadow. The Seaform series suggest the natural world and conjure visions of splendid urchins and other fantastic sea creatures. The Nijima Floats are magnificent orbs named after Nijima fishing floats that often washed up on the Pacific Northwest shores of Chihuly' s childhood.

The Chihuly Chandelier is the artist's greatest sculptural creation, reaching 12 feet or more in length and weighing as much as two tons, as does the chandelier commissioned for, and now hanging in, the lobby of the Mint Museum of Craft + Design.

Chihuly enrolled in the first glass blowing program begun in the United States, studying under Harvey Littleton at the University of Wisconsin (Chihuly' s Charlotte exhibition follows a retrospective exhibition of Littleton's work at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design). After completing a second Masters degree at the Rhode Island School of Design, Chihuly won a Fulbright Fellowship to become the first American to study glassmaking techniques on Venice's Island of Murano. At the celebrated Venini factory, Chihuly learned the Italian method of working glass in a team.

Chihuly returned to the Rhode Island School of Design to head the glass and sculpture departments. In 1971 he co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School, teaching there in the summers before moving back to the Pacific Northwest a decade later to pursue glass production full-time.

Although glasswork traditionally has been conceived by a designer, and then fabricated by a master craftsman, the studio glass movement changed that by allowing the artist to work directly with the material. Chihuly works with a team of highly skilled glass blowers, but no longer blows glass himself as he lost depth perception in an auto accident in 1976.

"When I was the gaffer, I had much less control than I do now," remarked Chihuly. "I compare my role to that of a film director. Having the best cameraman allows me to move in and around the set."

Dale Chihuly: Installations was the starting point for Chihuly's most heralded series, the Chandeliers. The very first chandelier was created for the exhibition's debut at the Seattle Art Museum in 1992 and has been superceded by works more indicative of the chandeliers featured in the 18-month, international project, Chihuly Over Venice.

"I used to think that it was the glass that was so mysterious, and then I discovered that it was the air that went into it that was so miraculous," stated Chihuly. "I often wonder how anyone ever thought of the idea of blowing air into molten glass. It doesn't work with any other material."

The majority of Dale Chihuly: Installations will be presented in the 6,000 square feet of gallery space on the second floor that housed both the previous Harvey Littleton and White House Craft exhibitions. Chihuly blown glass will also be installed in other public areas, including the mezzanine and lobby. Accompanying the exhibition is a 72-page, full-color catalog, published by the Seattle Art Museum, with an essay written by Patterson Sims, Curator of Modern Art.

Images from top to bottom (click on the thumbnail images to enlarge them): Dale Chihuly, photo: Stewart Cohen; Dale Chihuly under Presian Pergola, photo: Terry Rishel; Wine Chandelier, photo: Terry Rishel; Macchia Forest, photo: Scott Hager; Ancestor White Seaform Set, photo: Terry Rishel; Niijima Float Installation, photo: Terry Rishel; Drawing Wall, photo: Terry Rishel; Neon and Ice Installation, photo: Russell Johnson


rev. 10/18/10

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