CHAMPAIGN, IL.- Krannert Art Museum
and Kinkead Pavilion presents Fifty Years: Contemporary American Glass from Illinois Collections, which opened January 26 and will be on view through April 29, 2012.
This exhibition, guest curated by Jon Liebman, is designed as a sampling tour through the world of American contemporary glass art, showing the wide diversity of technique and vocabulary used by artists.
In 1962 Harvey Littleton, then ceramicist at the University of WisconsinMadison, along with Dominick Labino, vice-president of the Johns Manville Corporation, developed a small glass furnace on the grounds of the Toledo Museum of Art. This major development in glassmaking allowed an artist to create works in an independent studio setting. In addition, Littleton organized two workshops to demonstrate the use of glass as an artistic medium. These workshops became the foundation of the American Studio Glass Movement.
In the beginning, there were two distinguishing characteristics of American studio glass: unification of the roles of designer and maker and a focus on blown glass as distinct from other processes of forming objects from glass. Fifty years later, these two characteristics no longer describe American glass art. Blown glass is still a major thread; however, cast glass, cold-worked glass, and hot-sculpted glass are also important techniques of the movement. Although many artists design and make their own pieces, others, notably Dale Chihuly, work with gaffers who make pieces under their direction.
Fifty Years emphasizes the latter half of the movements fifty-year history in this country, although a few early pieces are included. The works are all drawn from the private collections of those living in Illinois, with a small bias towards artists with a connection to Illinois. A few of the artists represented in the exhibition, including Chihuly, Marvin Lipofsky, and Joel Philip Myers, were students of or were directly inspired by Littleton, while many others studied under Littleton's students. Almost all of the artists are actively producing glass art today, with the exception of Littleton, Labino (who is deceased), and William Morris.