Sculptural glass exhibit reflects wide range of techniques and styles

February 26, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

"Personal Vision/Diverse Images: An Exhibition of Recent Sculptural Glass" (through May 31) might seem a strange choice for the National Museum of Ceramic Art. But a look in the dictionary reveals that the word ceramic can refer to "the manufacture of any product [as earthenware, porcelain, tile, brick, glass, vitreous enamels . . .] made essentially from a non-metallic mineral by firing at high temperatures." You're never too old to learn.

The 44 examples gathered for this show may not cover all the bases of contemporary glassmaking, but they constitute an attractive group of sculptural (that is, non-functional) glass pieces from the United States and elsewhere, reflecting a wide range of techniques and styles.

The techniques represented here include blown, cast, laminated, cut, fused and fractured glass, subjected to such treatments as sandblasting, etching, electroplating, etc. All of this will be of interest to the glass artist, and no doubt to the serious collector as well. The more casual visitor will respond to what the finished works look like, and there is much to see.

Although this work is non-functional, some of it is made more or less in the form of vessels, such as two examples (1987, 1988) from Joel Philip Myers' "Contiguous Fragment Series" with their abstract designs in fields of deep color, or Toots Zynsky's "Tierra del Fuego" vase (1988) of brightly colored, fused threads, or the Japanese Kyohei Fujita's luxurious glass boxes, "Genji-Tale" (1989) and "Takitori-Tale" (1990).

Far more of the works here are purely sculptural. They range from such representational works as Richard Jolley's "The Kiss" (1987) in which two colorful heads appear to close and separate as the viewer circles the piece, to the Czech Frantisik Vizner's minimalist "Untitled" (1987), a semi-sphere with a slight indentation, and modernistic or futuristic works by several artists including Mark Peiser, Michael Taylor, William Carlson and another Czech, Michael Pavlik.

Among the most arresting pieces is the Swedish artist Bertil Vallien's hanging boat from his "Untitled Boat Series" (1989), a solid glass boat looking like a cross between an ancient vessel and a space ship, surreal and silent.

Even more effective, if possible, is Steven Weinberg's "Untitled" (1989), a glass cube in which an effect of cloudiness has been achieved; looking into this cloudiness, one can gradually discern an amphitheater-like arrangement, with tiers of seats facing what might be a stage or altar. It, too, could be ancient or otherworldly, and it seems to form and dissolve as the viewer strains to make it out through the enveloping gray mist.

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