Chihuly’s artworks remain in the permanent collections of over 200 museums worldwide. His 225 exhibitions to date include those at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Musée des Arts Décoratifs of the Palais du Louvre in Paris; the National Gallery of Australia; de Young Museum San Francisco; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC. Since 1976 when Henry Geldzahler - the first contemporary art curator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art - purchased three Cylinders for the museum’s permanent collection to his phenomenal success today, Chihuly has transcended the historical confines of his medium to become one of America’s most famous living artists and the world’s most prominent artist working in glass. Chihuly’s 21st century exhibitions have broken numerous records with visitor numbers in excess of 14 million. Add to this mantle the countless public and private art commissions, Garden Cycle ; 12 honorary doctorates and widespread critical acclaim, there is no doubting the impact this artist has made on the world of art.
of works in glass and is the first collection of its kind in the world. The pieces included in The Collection have been carefully selected by the artist for their enduring significance within his larger body of work. Although Chihuly never approaches his series with a narrative or figurative concern, viewed in its entirety, the panorama of a lifetime’s work begins to tell its own story. Each of The Collection’s artworks elicits a subtle shift, illuminating stylistic progressions to divulge a revealing evolution of form. The Collection provides a unique visual chronology of Chihuly’s art and the remarkable stylistic and technical breakthroughs he has pioneered in the art of glassblowing from the 1970s to 2015. Chihuly delineates his artworks through a succession of recognisable series which punctuate the turning points in his ongoing exploration of colour, form and medium. Sometimes borne of haphazard inspiration, the inauguration of each has more frequently materialised at the technical zenith of the preceding one. While each series explores a different principle, the perimeters which separate them are manifestly porous allowing the viewer to observe the gradual metamorphosis from one body of work to another. Chihuly’s tendency to revisit a series
- often decades later - means that motifs cross back and forth with increasing technical acuity and refinement of form. Cylinders series, pioneered the fusion of glass to surface decoration with its shard and thread drawings. Inspired by the graphic patterning of Navajo Blankets, they became the neutral canvas to which Chihuly returned on many occasions. This seminal series provided a central axis around which many of his ‘off- centre’ experiments were to revolve. The purity of the cylinder form is a counterpoint to the asymmetry with which Chihuly has long since been associated. The Basket series which followed, looked again to the relics of Native American culture – specifically to the time-worn shapes of the Northwest Coast Indian Baskets which Chihuly had encountered on his visit to the Washington State History Museum in 1977. The Baskets were, as Chihuly maintains, “a game changer…one of the most innovative things I ever did.” Through his Basket series Chihuly was able to pioneer a new approach. Rejecting the rigid outcomes of traditional glassblowing, he utilised nature’s forces to sculpt and choreograph the glass, encouraging the fluidity of movement inherent in its molten state. Chihuly’s inaugural
By exploiting gravity, centrifugal force and fire, Chihuly’s Basket series engendered an ongoing dialogue between nature, artist and medium, opening up infinite possibilities for the forms which followed. Chihuly’s Seaforms pushed the malleability of the medium further still with the introduction of optic moulds. The corrugated ridges which strengthened the glass immediately resembled the biomorphic forms of sea creatures, providing the catalyst for one of Chihuly’s most coveted and technically pivotal series. A constellation of forms was to follow as Chihuly immersed himself in the exploration of a further eleven series. He studied colour in all its permutations with his Macchia series; channeled the romance and exoticism of Byzantine cultural influences in his Persians ; looked to Art Deco and Italian glass history for his Venetians and to Japanese flower arranging for his Ikebana series. The Rotolo, the most contemporary of Chihuly’s series in The Collection - represents a temporary denouement in this extraordinary artist’s canon. Locating the most enduring and vital of all Chihuly’s multifarious influences in their realisation. The Rotolo , in their sculptural magnificence, express Chihuly’s unequivocal fascination and reverence for his ‘ miraculous’ material.
The Collection , curates over four decades of Chihuly’s art across ten of his established series
Dale Chihuly The Boathouse hotshop, Seattle, Washington, 1994
Freed from the perfunctory allusions to functionality inherent in the Venetians series, Chihuly’s Rotolo radiate a triumphant autonomy for the medium itself. Rising in a miraculous swirling tower of emphatic exuberance, they embody a glistening quintessence of energy itself. Here the ‘decorative’ coils of the Venetians series have dispensed entirely with their formal vessel totems to embody their own entity. Each Rotolo weighs up to 130 pounds and takes up to eight days to anneal. The works are the most physically and technically
challenging work Chihuly has ever created. Working and pushing the boundaries of the medium, the creation of these new pieces has rekindled Chihuly’s excitement for working with clear glass. Composed of a minimum of three separate coils, some as long as six foot, they require a team of fifteen to bring them to life. The enormous technical challenges of the series have delighted Chihuly satiating, his voracious artistic appetite, albeit momentarily, until the next challenge emerges.
James Mongrain, Chihuly, Andrea Strong, and Jason Christian The Boathouse hotshop, Seattle, 2013
C L E A R ROTOL O 114
2015 Hand-Blown Glass 83.8 x 58.4 x 48.2 cm 33 x 23 x 19 in
Chihuly’s most recent series, Rotolo, means ‘ coil’ in Italian. The series explores the physical dynamics of the glassblowing and sculpting processes, pushing them to their outer limits. Each Rotolo consists of at least three
separate coils which are intertwined. Their weight is reflected in their title - this tightly coiled vertical Rotolo from 2015 weighs 114 pounds and required a team of 15 to create.
C L E A R ROTOL O 9 5
2015 Hand-Blown Glass 53.3 x 58.4 x 40.6 cm 21 x 23 x 16 in
The series pushes the boundaries of the medium in both scale and technical complexity, producing a distillation of pure vibrant form and barely suppressed Rotolo
energy. The choreography of sculpting multiple elements of molten hot glass requires not only prodigious virtuosity but also a certain audacity that is typical of Chihuly.
B I OG R A PH Y
signature Chandeliers , Towers , and Reeds ; a sizeable exhibition hall and a glasshouse of some 400 square metres displaying an immense suspended sculpture of Persian elements in shades of red, orange, amber and yellow. His inaugural exhibition at Halcyon Gallery, London attracted over 70,000 visitors and during the build up to the London 2012 Olympic Games, a monumental new piece commissioned by the gallery, Torchlight Chandelier was installed on Park Lane. In February 2014 Chihuly’s second exhibition at Halcyon Gallery - Dale Chihuly - Beyond The Object opened in London. Seeing the relationship between his work and the space that surrounds his pieces as proudly important, the exhibition featured theatrical set-pieces that responded with animation to the architecture of 144-146 New Bond Street. To coincide with the opening of the show, Harrods, London unveiled Amber and Gold Chandelier , the only art work ever to have been commissioned by the world famous department store. In April 2014, The Sun , a 5 metre sculpture was unveiled by Chihuly in the presence of the Lord Mayor of Westminster in London’s Berkeley Square. Halcyon’s third Chihuly exhibition, Lumière, the first ever exhibition of Chihuly’s Light Drawings opened in December 2014. During the same month, Chihuly at Fairchild, opened at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, an 8 acre tropical oasis in Miami, Florida. “ Dale Chihuly is not just a major player in the art world; he is one of those rare people who have actually changed their game.” writes Ben Bamsey in Artworks magazine. “…While glass has been around for 5000 years and artists have been blowing it for 2000, Chihuly came along and changed the shape and scale of the medium and the way in which it is crafted and presented. His revolutionary approach to glass blowing elevated the industry from craft to fine art.”
An internationally acclaimed American artist working in the medium of glass, Chihuly has revolutionised glassblowing, transforming it from craft to a fine art realised on a vast and unprecedented scale. His experimentation with natural forms bridges the distinction between representation and abstraction, while a riotous play of colour focuses the eye on brilliant and beautiful excess. Dale Chihuly was born on 20 September 1941 in Tacoma, the son of a butcher and a housewife with a keen interest in gardening. His fascination with glass began as child, collecting the pieces of glass that washed up on the beaches of Puget Sound. During his initial degree course studying interior design and architecture at the University of Washington in Seattle in the early 1960s, he learned to melt and fuse glass. His first award, while still an undergraduate, was earned from the Seattle Weavers’ Guild in 1964 for innovative use of glass and fibre. After working as a designer at John Graham Architects in Seattle in 1965, and a period fishing commercially in Alaska, Chihuly won a scholarship enabling him to enroll for a Master of Science in sculpture at the University of Wisconsin at Madison (1966-1967). There he took part in America’s first glass programme, run by Harvey K. Littleton, founder of the studio glass movement. His training continued with a Master of Fine Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence. In 1968, Chihuly used a Fulbright Fellowship to visit Europe and became the first American glassblower to work at the Venini factory in Venice, on the Island of Murano where glassmaking has thrived since the tenth century. The Italian practice of teamwork contrasted with Littleton’s more individualised approach and was to become a significant method of working for Chihuly and his team. Returning to the United States, he set up a glass programme at RISD and taught there for the next 11 years, additionally cofounding Pilchuck Glass School,
an international centre in Washington State.
year-long exhibition amidst the ancient ruins of the Tower of David Museum featuring 14 installations. The exhibition was visited by over 1 million people. Chihuly’s lifelong fascination for glasshouses developed into a series of exhibitions within botanical settings. His Garden Cycle began in 2001 at Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago and has since included among many locations, Kew Gardens in London (2005) the New York Botanical Garden and Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis ( both 2006). With organic forms that sometimes blend in with their surroundings and sometimes startle, he invents gardens of delight where sunlight plays on delicately translucent surfaces and nature and art interact subtly. exhibited internationally, from Brazil to New Zealand and from Iceland to Japan. During the past decade, 97 exhibitions in seven countries presented his artworks for the enjoyment of more than 14 million people. The recipient of many awards, Chihuly holds 12 honorary doctorates and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Chihuly’s artworks remain in the permanent collections of over 200 museums worldwide. His 225 exhibitions to date include those at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Musée des Arts Décoratifs of the Palais du Louvre in Paris; the National Gallery of Australia; de Young Museum San Francisco; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. A permanent exhibition and art garden devoted entirely to Chihuly’s work was opened in May 2012 to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the World’s Fair which had been held on the site in 1962. Situated at the Seattle Centre in Washington State. It is conceived on a grand scale, with outdoor installations of his Since 1967 Chihuly has
In the 1970s Chihuly sustained a serious injury that left him without sight in his left eye. Despite this setback, Chihuly has pursued a long and successful creative career. His sources of inspiration are diverse, including Native American blankets and baskets, traditional Japanese flower arranging, the sea, and Italian glassware of the interwar years. Among the series he has developed are Cylinders and Baskets in the 1970s; Seaforms , Macchia , Persians and Venetians in the 1980s; Chandeliers and Towers in the 1990s; and since the year 2000, Fiori . Chihuly originates his concepts as drawings or paintings, working at floor level to create fluid designs that are a festival of motion and colour. While his earlier works were more muted, Macchia consciously used all 300 hues at his disposal. Many subsequent installations are intensely colourful, either exploring one vibrant shade, like Scorpion Tails and Bamboo (Phoenix, Arizona 2008-2009) or a kaleidoscopic display, as in the 17 metre long Mille Fiori (de Young Museum, San Francisco 2008). He has constantly experimented with line, fusing glass threads into Blanket Cylinders , ribbing the surfaces of Seaforms , highlighting the edges of the Macchia series with lip wraps and basing the entire forms of Chandeliers and Towers on a vast nest of intertwining, elongated tubes of blown glass. Indoors he may fill a stairwell with a Tower or fashion a ceiling of multicoloured glass pieces - most famously, the 2000 flowers of Fiori di Como in Las Vegas but Chihuly’s largest projects have been outdoors and are linked with architecture and landscape. Chihuly Over Venice in 1995-1996 saw him collaborate with glass blowers from four different countries - Mexico, the United States, Ireland and Finland – installing his Chandeliers over the canals of Venice as a gesture of gratitude for what he learned in the city. Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem followed in 2000 – a monumental
Dale Chihuly The Boathouse hotshop, Seattle, 1993
Executive Consultant: Leslie Jackson Chihuly Project Director: Paula Stokes Words: Nouska Hanly
Photography and video: Emery Studios
Additional photography: Russell Johnson: Pages 2 and 16 Scott M. Leen: Page 4
First published in Great Britain in 2015 by
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