‘‘My work takes people to a different place,’’ explains artist Dale Chihuly. No one could have said it better: his blown glass pieces are transformative. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Chihuly breaks the boundaries of traditionally hand-blown glass, to create one of a kind art objects.
One can only gaze in awe at his glowing glass sculptures, some composed of multiple, organic components. This latest exhibition is an underwater moment and holds all therein spellbound. Some of his works resemble ocean creatures, like the otherworldly sea urchins cradled within a nurturing ‘mother circle’ in Turquoise Azure Seaform Pair Studio Edition 2011. They shimmer in narrow concentric horizontal lines, delineated in shades of sea blue with a sinuous sliver of orange outlining the edges. Sea forms are but one of Chihuly’s inspirations. In particular, he uses the perfect shape of the sea urchin and the undulating form of a jellyfish, with its long, curly tentacles; a beautiful danger. The artist’s works are like tidal changes with their power to transform. You look – and look again. Their provocative sensuality is mysteriously ambiguous. Many of his forms are, indeed, ostentatiously sensual. As flirty as Marilyn’s skirt, the edges of his blown glass sculptures catch your eye and draw you in to admire. There is a graceful, almost feminine energy, as one piece balances delicately, tentatively touching another. The works are an exquisite ode to elegance. Chihuly has taken a simple, albeit ancient, medium – we see through windows of glass every day – and elevated it to another realm. His works are almost meditative. They are also sophisticated. Yet, they are simple in their complexity, and strangely spiritual: they speak of the mystery of life. Each observer sees their own vision in these playful shape shifters, and in doing so, enters another world and for a moment in time, is transformed.
‘‘My work revolves around a simple set of circumstances: fire, molten glass, human breath, spontaneity, centrifugal force and gravity,’’
His ‘‘simple set of circumstances’’ produces iridescent forms with an inner life. Colours that resonate – whether startling sapphire blue or the tart lemon yellow of his newest, smaller versions, which premiered at de Bellefeuille gallery. In an edition of 25 signed and dated (but not numbered), the latest pieces start at $4,100. These smaller sculptures are completely contemporary; abstract and minimalist. In that, they resemble blown beauties produced today in Murano, Venice, where, incidentally, Chihuly has worked. They are simply splendid shapes, with no reference to nature or the sea. They are, however, seductively curved. One yellow sculpture titled Jasmine Basker – composed of a smaller piece balanced within a larger bowl – is a paean to the shape of a circle. Circles are round, and they are perfect. While they may not possess the energy of the blown glass pieces in the main room, this new series allows a collector a starting point, an introduction to Chihuly’s magic, wrought by his uncompromising artistic vision. l
Chihuly’s work is included in more than 200 museum collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Palais du Louvre, and the Corning Museum of Glass.
Galerie de Bellefeuille
1367 Greene Ave.
April 23 – May 21, 2011