There's more sparkle and light these days in the L-shape North Gallery on the second floor of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. That's because the intimate space holds about 60 pieces of blown, cast, sandblasted and molded glass objects that represent five decades of studio glass production by contemporary American, European and Asian masters of the medium. Given to the IMA by Marilyn and Gene Glick, the complete collection of about 240 items remains one of the largest of its kind in the United States.
- Jami Stall
One of three mixed-media pieces in the collection from Therman Statom, Green Chair with Base was created in the early '90s, and it involves assembled sheet glass, bonded then painted and then embellished with found objects (such as glass shards and wood).
The exhibit includes a variety of pieces by 34 renowned artists, such as Dale Chihuly, Jaroslava Brychtová, Harvey K. Littleton, Richard Marquis and Stanislav Libensky. It traces the rise of the American Studio Glass Movement and more personally, the exquisite taste of the Glicks, for these works were from their private collection.
As interesting as it is to view them on platforms, suspended from walls and perched in polished glass cases within their new home at the museum, it's more fascinating to imagine them positioned throughout the Glick's personal residence through the years.
During the preview evening of the Masters of Contemporary Glass: Highlights from Marilyn and Eugene Glick Collection, one visitor standing before Therman Statom's Green Chair with Base casually mentioned that Marilyn so loved the pieces that she displayed them in their home. But they weren't isolated in special off-limits rooms or kept in look-but-don't-touch display cases. He spoke as someone who knew Marilyn personally and explained that she appreciated her art immensely and wanted it to be a part of her life -- wanted to live with it and enjoy it.
He had been the Glick's neighbor and described himself as a glass artist. Though he's been known to instead say he's really "a physician who does art." As such, Jeffrey Rothenberg happens to be the chief medical officer of IU Health and an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the IU School of Medicine. And, yes, he's also an acclaimed local glassblowing artist -- and he did know the Glicks personally.
"I glued back some of the pieces that had broken off of that," he says, pointing to light-green straight-back chair made of glass. Not that he whipped out the Super Glue. Instead he used a special epoxy made for such glasswork.
"Marilyn had these pieces sitting in her home; her grandkids played around them. She lived with her art; over time, some things get broken," Rothenberg says.
- Jami Stall
An influential teacher from Toledo, Ohio, Harvey K. Littleton was instrumental in making glasswork a studio art. His Blue Crown is best viewed in person to witness the full effect of its radiance and dancing colors.
He recognized a lot of the works and, in an almost curator-style, spoke intelligently about many of the items in the gallery. For example, he says the Green Chair with Base, along with the glass Ladder and House adjacent to it, are all by American-born Therman Statom, who he says is the only African-American artist in the collection. Rothenberg goes on to point out a large-scale pastel green sculpture at one end of the gallery created by Howard Ben Tré. He says the 8-foot-tall structure resembling an immense chiminea was so hot when it was made that it had to cool for two or three months afterward. He explained that something of its size must sit in a special "annealing oven" that gradually lowers the temperature. "It would crack if it cooled too quickly," he says.
Next, he points across the room to work by Klaus Moje. Rothenberg says Moje was born in Germany, but he's best known as the educator of glass art in Australia. Moje is a specialist of kiln-formed glass art and was the founding head of the Australian National University School of Art Glass Workshops.
Putting It All Together
Curator of the Collection, Charles Venable, the Melvin and Bren Simon director and CEO of the IMA, was on hand talking to members about the various items featured. He would've been pleased to hear Rothenberg's appreciation of the exhibit's diversity of artists and methods represented -- as that was Venable's intention.
"Out of around 240 pieces, this is about a quarter of it," Venable says. "We could make this all just blown glass, but most people are interested in seeing a bigger variety than that. So I made sure we had representatives of different types of techniques, different artists from different periods -- younger artists and older ones."
The earliest piece is from the 1950s, but the vast majority is from the mid '60s all the way up to about 2000, which is when the Glicks stopped collecting glass. The body of work ranges from the simple to the sublime in terms of design.
- Jami Stall
Jay Musler's Tray with 3 Goblets looks more like a service piece Tim Burton might use as a prop. Delicate, beautiful and yet bizarre, the tray and goblets feature crude Frankenstein-like sutures.
"I love the fact that we go from sort of a simple glass bowl that you might say, 'Well, I've seen millions of glass bowls,' all the way up to a weird, giant sculpture made of glass that you'd never think somebody would ever have made -- an 8-foot-tall glass sculpture," says Venable.
He says all of the selections are "really top-flight pieces -- none are just nice, but slightly ordinary." Still, he has a favorite among them.
"I love the work by Richard Marquis because of his technique," Venable says. "They almost look like little dice or something that are all chopped up and put back together into beautiful glass pieces to get that pattern. I think he's a great master at it."
A studio glass pioneer, Marquis went to the Venini glassworks on Murano back in the late '60s, where he learned historic Venetian techniques such as "murrine" (mosaic) and "filigrana" (filigree). A glasswork extremely difficult to master, filigrana incorporates multicolored canes or "rods" of glass that are fused together to create intricate, layered patterns.
Whether you have a penchant for glistening glassworks or wish to see other forms of the art, this current exhibit is sure to be a highlight of your next IMA visit. And once you've seen it, you'll want to return. Venable says the items from the complete collection will periodically rotate. For more information on this and other IMA exhibits, visit its website.