A new survey of one of the largest and finest collections of contemporary studio glass in the United States will open at The Corning Museum of Glass
on May 16, 2009. Part of a year-long series of contemporary glass exhibitions and programming at the Museum, Voices of Contemporary Glass: The Heineman Collection, will present 240 works in glass by 87 international artists.
Voices of Contemporary Glass will showcase the collection donated to the Museum in 2006 by Ben W. Heineman, Sr. and his wife, Natalie G. Heineman. Mr. Heineman collected with a discerning eye, thoughtfully assembling a grouping of works that represents the full breadth of a defining period in contemporary glassmaking. He was intrigued by the extraordinary potential of the material to take on a broad range of expressions and forms. Although interested in all kinds of art in glass, he was drawn primarily to works that explored abstraction and color.
The exhibition at the Corning Museum features video interviews with a selection of artists represented in the Heineman Collection, exploring their individual ideas, or voices, in glass. This multitude of voices and perspectives celebrates the infinite possibilities of glass as a medium for contemporary vessels and sculpture, and documents the ongoing process of discovery and innovation that has shaped the story of the Studio Glass movement.
“The Heineman Collection reflects the remarkable achievements made in studio glass over the past 35 years,” said David Whitehouse, the Corning Museum’s executive director. “The collection is distinguished by its in-depth focus on a key group of individuals whose work has been influential to artists working in glass worldwide. The exhibition explores the appeal of glass and its essence as a creative medium for artists of all backgrounds. At the Museum, visitors can always experience the energy of artists at work but, this year, the artists will be even more present.”
Throughout the summer, Museum visitors will be able to participate in gallery tours led by artists who teach at the Museum’s glassmaking school, The Studio, such as Paul Stankard, Amy Rueffert and Gianni Toso. Daily live demonstrations by Corning Museum glassmakers will help visitors understand many of the techniques behind the works on view in Voices of Contemporary Glass, and guests will be able to make their own glass in hands-on experiences.
“This extensive collection allows us to present the story of studio glassmaking, and to examine the variety of ways in which artists have used glass to find their artistic voices,” said Tina Oldknow, curator of modern glass and of the exhibition. “The exceptional compilation of objects displayed in the exhibition documents a remarkable material and a deeply introspective process of working that helps to explain the often indefinable, but always captivating, allure of glass.”
The Heineman Collection nearly completely documents the chronology of the American Studio Glass movement, with objects dating from 1969 to 2005, and it presents the work of several artists over the course of their careers. Highlights of the exhibition include:
• Architectonic sculptures by Thomas Patti, who pioneered the exploration of industrial and architectural glass as a sculptural medium.
• Blown vessels by Lino Tagliapietra, considered to be the world’s foremost glassblower and one whose influence has had a lasting impact on American studio glass.
• Glass sculptures evoking elements of architecture and industry by Howard Ben Tré, who led the way in the use of cast glass as a sculptural medium in the United States.
• A rare group of “Navajo Blanket” cylinders blown in the mid-1970s by the internationally recognized artist, Dale Chihuly.
• Iconic sculptures by the acknowledged “fathers” of American studio glass, Harvey K. Littleton and Dominick Labino, who, in 1962, introduced the first studio-sized glass furnace that enabled glassworking to move outside of a factory environment, launching the American Studio Glass movement.
Voices of Contemporary Glass, which runs through January 3, 2010, will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog of the collection by Tina Oldknow. As part of a year-long celebration of contemporary glass at the Museum, it is complemented by the exhibitions, Favorites from the Contemporary Glass Collection (March 1, 2009 – January 3, 2010), and Masters of Studio Glass: Richard Craig Meitner (April 4 – October 18, 2009).
The installation, designed by Paul and Barbara Haigh, is inspired by the Heinemans’ Chicago residence in which the collection was originally displayed. The exhibition design transforms the large and open spaces of the Museum into a more intimate setting, reminiscent of domestic interiors, with the objects arranged primarily by artist, rather than by artistic theme, chronology, or technique.
The Corning Museum of Glass has historically taken the lead in disseminating information about contemporary glass. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Museum’s landmark show, Glass 1959, one of the first significant surveys of mid-20th-century glass design. Workshops introducing studio artists to hot glass, held three years later, in 1962, at The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio, launched the American Studio Glass movement, which is explored in-depth in Voices of Contemporary Glass.