A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
May 10, 2012
Walk into the Pleasant T. Rowland Galleries at the Chazen Museum of Art and a magnificent figure greets you. It’s Dress Impression with Wrinkled Cowl,” a cast glass work by Karen LaMonte. The life-size form of a dress, with fine wrinkles up top and a fluid swish at the bottom, is slightly haunting, like an elegant apparition.
It’s a beautiful opening moment to Spark and Flame: 50 Years of Art Glass and the University of Wisconsin–Madison, an exhibition running through August 5. The show highlights the work of roughly a hundred artists, collected by three University of Wisconsin alumni, and celebrates the influence of Harvey Littleton, the “father of the studio glass movement” who founded the country’s first university glass-blowing program at UW–Madison in the 1960s.
The work showcased in the first room of the exhibition is diverse, ranging from small to large, clear to colorful, abstract to representational, minimalist to intricately detailed.
Christopher Reis’s Lotus is a sleek, sharp form reminiscent of a sail or candle flame carried out in perfectly clear glass. Emma Varga’s Vibrant Red #10 is a form of glass with a red organic, fern-like form inside.
In Awakening by John Littleton and Kate Vogel, a hand within a block of clear glass removes a mask from a woman’s face. The eyes of the mask are closed while the woman’s eyes are open.
Kreg Kallenberger’s Phantom Canyon is a watermelon slice-shaped form of clear glass; inside, a natural scene of rocks, water and greenery exists atop a rough, craggy bottom. Contrasting the small detail of this piece is Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora Mace’s Pear. The giant piece of fruit is perky and satisfyingly straightforward.
Throughout the room, sculptures, vessels and jewelry can be seen on platforms, in glass cases and hung on walls.
The following room is devoted to work by Littleton, whose career at UW–Madison spanned from 1951 to 1977. A surprisingly eclectic array of glass works reveals his incredible range and sense of experimentation and adventure.
His Optic Wave is composed of four thick glass bars bent into curved, wave-like forms, while Red Squared Descending Form [pictured above] is a small, sweeping arched work with stripes of pink, red and orange twisting inside.
In addition to works in cases, prints Littleton made using glass plates fill the walls, alongside quotes by the artist and teacher. His words are a thoughtful addition, offering insight into his approach to art. As one states:
“A man cannot educe forms from hot glass by conceiving of it as a cold, finished material He must see it hot on the end of his pipe as it emerges glowing from the furnace; he must have a sense of wonder!”
Spark and Flame: 50 Years of Art Glass and the University of Wisconsin–Madison runs through August 5. For more information, visit chazen.wisc.edu.
Photo courtesy of the Chazen Museum of Art.