Tacoma, Washington United States
Dale Chihuly is most frequently lauded for revolutionizing the Studio Glass movement, by expanding its original premise of the solitary artist working in a studio environment to encompass the notion of collaborative teams and a division of labor within the creative process. However, Chihuly's contribution extends well beyond the boundaries of both this movement and even the field of glass: his achievements have influenced contemporary art in general. Chihuly's practice of using teams has led to the development of complex, multipart sculptures of dramatic beauty that place him in the leadership role of moving blown glass out of the confines of the small, precious object and into the realm of large-scale contemporary sculpture. In fact, Chihuly deserves credit for establishing the blown-glass form as an accepted vehicle for installation and environmental art, beginning in the late twentieth century and continuing today.
A prodigiously prolific artist whose work balances content with an investigation of the material's properties of translucency and transparency, Chihuly began working with glass at a time when reverence for the medium and for technique was paramount. A student of interior design and architecture in the early 1960s, by 1965 he had become captivated by the process of glassblowing. He enrolled in the
Influenced by an environment that fostered the blurring of boundaries separating all the arts, as early as 1967 Chihuly was using neon, argon, and blown-glass forms to create room-sized installations of organic, freestanding, plantlike imagery. He brought this interdisciplinary approach to the arts to the legendary
Stylistically during the past forty years, Chihuly's sculptures in glass have explored color, line, and assemblage. Although his work ranges from the single vessel to indoor/outdoor site-specific installations, he is best known for his multipart blown compositions. These works fall into the categories of mini-environments designed for the tabletop and large, often serialized forms displayed in groupings on pedestals or attached to specially engineered structures that dominate large exterior or interior spaces.
Chihuly and his teams have created a wide vocabulary of blown forms, revisiting and refining earlier shapes while at the same time creating exciting new elements, such as his recent Fiori, all of which demonstrate mastery and understanding of glassblowing techniques. Earlier forms, such as the Baskets, Seaforms, Ikebana, Venetians, and Chandeliers from the late 1970s through the 1990s, continue to reappear with fresh variations and within new contexts.
Since the early 1980s, all of Chihuly's work has been marked by intense, vibrant color and by subtle linear decoration. At first he achieved patterns by fusing into the surface of his vessels “drawings” composed of prearranged glass threads; he then had his forms blown in optic molds, which created ribbed motifs. He also explored in the Macchia series bold, colorful lip wraps that contrasted sharply with the brilliant colors of his vessels. Finally, beginning with the Venetians of the early 1990s, elongated, linear blown forms, a product of the glassblowing process, have become part of his vocabulary, resulting in highly baroque, writhing elements.
Chihuly's work is strongly autobiographical. His fascination with abstracted flower forms, reminiscent for him of his mother's garden in
Over the years the artist has created a number of memorable installation exhibitions, including Chihuly Over Venice (1995–96), Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem 2000 at the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem (2000), Chihuly in the Park: A Garden of Glass at Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory (2001–2), the
While elements of the earlier installations allude to natural phenomena such as icicles and vegetation, gardens provide the dominant theme in Chihuly's most recent ones. Sites that include Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory and the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, as well as future projects at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and Kew Gardens, London, enable the artist to juxtapose monumental, organically shaped sculptural forms with beautiful landscaping, establishing a direct and immediate interaction between nature and art. Moreover, Chihuly's most recent installations at the
A dominant presence in the art world, Dale Chihuly and his work have long provoked considerable controversy as part of the art/craft debate. However, with exhibitions at such major museum venues as the Victoria and Albert in
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