Internationally renowned glassblower Dale Chihuly is best known for the extravagance of his works, which are created by teams of as many as 12 glassblowers, who interconnect hundreds of individually blown sculptures of glass to fulfill Chihuly’s grand-scale artistic vision.
“Glass is an ancient and magical material, a molten material that can be blown with human breath,” Chihuly told The Argonaut Tuesday, November 16th.
Now a Venice gallery and a Santa Monica gallery have decided to team up to bring the glassblower’s art to the local area.
Chihuly’s works will be jointly shown in a collaborative exhibit by L.A. Louver and Frank Lloyd Gallery.
The shows open for public viewing Saturday, November 20th. L.A. Louver is at 45 Venice Blvd., Venice; and Frank Lloyd Gallery is at 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. Admission is free.
Each gallery will focus on a different facet of Chihuly’s work, and the shows will remain on display concurrently, closing on Saturday, January 8th, at Frank Lloyd Gallery and Saturday, January 15th, at L.A. Louver Gallery.
L.A. Louver will present a large-scale installation from Chihuly’s recent series, Mille Fiori, in which the artist creates flamboyant gardens of glass. The Italian Mille Fiori means “a thousand flowers” in English. The installation includes hundreds of individually hand-blown glass elements that have been assembled into a tropical landscape.
Some elements resemble reeds, while others bring to mind exotic flowers and foliage. The translucence of the glass medium sometimes gives Chihuly’s garden’s an aquatic feel.
Mille Fiori gardens are mounted on reflective black platforms, which mirror their colorful forms.
Three glass gardens will be installed at L.A. Louver — one in its main space, another in the gallery’s adjacent south gallery and a third in the gallery’s open-air “skyroom,” which adds a visual effect as sunlight passes through the glass.
Frank Lloyd Gallery will feature a focused selection of the individual small-scale works for which Chihuly has earned his renown.
The small-scale works were chosen from a number of Chihuly’s series’ including Baskets, Persians, Cylinders and Seaforms. The differing styles of the selections were chosen to try to show the breadth of the artist’s work, according to Frank Lloyd Gallery representatives.
Visitors enter a darkened space, where they are first presented with a work from the Persians series. Forms from the Soft Cylinders and Jerusalem Cylinders series will be on display in the gallery display cases.
Individual Seaforms will fill the gallery’s center area, presenting a flow of white, gray and black lines.
Works from the Seaforms series represent Chihuly’s admiration of the ocean, which he first grew to love as a child growing up near Seattle. Chihuly was also inspired by the New England shore during his time at the Rhode Island School of Design in the late 1960s.
Chihuly’s current studio is in Seattle in a building known as The Boathouse, the site of an old racing shell factory.
From the beginning of his career, Chihuly was involved in the creation of the American Studio Glass Movement. This movement expanded the premise of a solitary artist working in a studio environment to encompass the notion of collaborative teams and a division of labor within the creative process.
“What’s interesting about the Studio Glass Movement is that, historically, glass was only blown in the factories,” Chihuly explains. “And of course they’re only going to want to blow stuff in the factories that has really had a market — that they could sell. It was a business.
“So they used techniques that could replicate the work easily. In other words, they wanted to make something over and over. Very rarely did they do unique pieces. That left the Studio Glass Movement open to a whole realm of techniques and objects that the earlier glassblower didn’t want to use or they didn’t want to think about.”
Using teams is the way Chihuly is able to accomplish the development of complex, multipart sculptures where small precious objects of glass are combined to make large-scale contemporary sculptures.
In the team function it is almost as if Chihuly gets to sit in the director’s seat of the project. He often makes drawings to serve as a blueprint for his project and then watches over the progress.
“People ask, ‘How does the team work?’ and ‘How are you able to direct the team?’ It’s not easy to explain.
“I sometimes make the analogy of myself as a filmmaker. First of all, I come up with a concept, which might be like a script. I don’t work on the team itself but make drawings while the team is working. The whole process is a very exciting and inspiring one, and it is the time when I do all my drawings.”
Chihuly is said to begin his work by investigating the properties of translucency and transparency in the materials he will be working with.
He was a student of interior design and architecture in the early 1960s, and by 1965, his extraordinary interest in glassblowing was fully realized.
Influenced by an environment that fostered the blurring of boundaries separating the arts, as early as 1967 Chihuly was using neon, argon, and blown glass forms to create room-sized installations of freestanding organic, plant-like imagery.
Now, Chihuly’s works often fall into the category of “mini-environments” or “serialized forms” attached to pedestals or specially-engineered structures that dominate large exterior or interior spaces.
Chihuly considers many of his works autobiographical, and the abstracted flower forms in his works are said to represent memories of his mother’s garden in Tacoma.
“A lot of work I do is nature-inspired or looks like it might come from nature, but I don’t look specifically at something to make it,” he says. “I just sort of have a natural feeling for using glass — trying to take advantage of the color and transparency that glass offers.” Chihuly established the glass program at Rhode Island School of Design in 1969 and went on to found the seminal Pilchuck Glass School (near Stanwood, Washington) in 1971.
In 1995, working in glass factories in Finland, Ireland and Mexico, the artist embarked on Chihuly Over Venice, an installation of a glass sculpture over the canals and piazzas of Venice, Italy. Four years later, he presented his most ambitious installation to date, Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem, which is estimated to have been viewed by over a million people.
Chihuly’s work is included in more than 200 museum collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the MusÈe des Arts DÈcoratifs, and the Palais du Louvre, and the Corning Museum of Glass. Large Chihuly Art Collections are held by the Tacoma Art Museum and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
Information, L.A. Louver Gallery, (310) 822-4955, or Frank Lloyd Gallery, (310) 264-3866.