Contemporary Glass Jewelry At Toledo Museum

Ruzan Haruriunyan's picture

GlassWear, a major exhibition of more than 130 works of contemporary art celebrating the union of glass and jewelry, debuts in the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion on November 9, 2007 and will remain on view through January 31, 2008.

These exciting and highly innovative creations convey the richness of glass as a medium for jewelry and confirm the vitality of art jewelry-making worldwide. Among the 60 included artists are Linda MacNeil and Robert Ebendorf (United States), Giampaolo Babetto and Giorgio Vigna (Italy), Otto Künzli and Karl Fritsch (Germany), Mieke Groot and Ruudt Peters (The Netherlands), and Vaclav Cigler and Marketa Silena (Czech Republic). A spirit of exploration and nonconformity pervades the jewelry in GlassWear.

In some works, novelty results from the use of new types of glass—borosilicates for thin, yet strong compositional elements and dichroic and iridescent glass for intense color effects. In other works, the artists achieve innovative results by applying traditional glassworking processes in unexpected ways. GlassWear: Glass in Contemporary Jewelry is organized and circulated by the Museum of Arts & Design, New York, and the Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim, Germany. Following its premiere in Toledo, the exhibition will travel to the Schmuckmuseum (Jewelry Museum) Pforzheim, March 14 through May 25, 2008.

GlassWear will then travel to the Museum of Arts & Design in 2009. Ranging in style from lavish ornamentation to minimalism and from biting social commentary to the spirituality of pure light and color, the works in GlassWear explore the most recent chapter in the development of contemporary jewelry making and employ advanced processes and intense color effects to create groundbreaking glass forms.

"The works selected for GlassWear are sophisticated interpretations of a medium that is thousands of years old but continues to surprise in many new guises," said Toledo Museum of Art curator of glass, Dr. Jutta-Annette Page. The exhibition features established and emerging artists "who explore the potential of glass in jewelry through their provocative concepts and their mastery of techniques and materials," said Ursula Ilse-Neuman, curator of jewelry for the Museum of Arts & Design and curator of GlassWear. "Time and again, they confirm that an object's worth owes more to its form and ideas, than to the preciousness of its materials."

The exhibition primarily includes works by jewelers who use glass as a featured material. The various roles that glass plays in each artist's creation are organized into five distinct areas within the exhibition.

Recycled Glass

Remarkable new creations draw their primary inspiration from glass fragments or used glass objects. While some artists bring together fragments and shards to form abstract configurations, others give new life to antique glass or transform industrial products into contemporary glass jewelry. Artists such as Robert Ebendorf and Mieke Groot often incorporate discarded glass or objects from flea markets into their jewelry in order to evoke a personal memory from the viewer.

Glass as Chameleon

Glass has the ability to impersonate a variety of substances and materials, including gemstones, flowers, plants, and even liquids. Linda MacNeil's unique jewelry often mimics the look of gemstones. In her necklace Elements (2005), MacNeil uses clear, polished glass "gemstones" to draw the viewer's attention, while traditional diamonds serve a visually supporting role.

Glass as Surface and Structure

These works of art employ glass as the main compositional element that transforms light and color into a tangible ingredient of the object. Jeweler and American artist Thomas Gentille is known for using nontraditional materials in his jewelry, including industrial glass, plywood, crushed pyrite, and eggshell. In his minimalist work Pin (2007), Gentille combines yellow enameled industrial glass embedded in light maple wood, melding geometric form and surface treatment.

Glass as Symbol and Metaphor

Descriptors of glass are often identical to those applied to people and personalities: transparent, flashy, molded, polished, and even fractured. Glass also possesses a paradoxical combination of fragility, making it a useful metaphor for artists commenting on structure and society. In The Treasure of Memory (2000), American-born artist Michael Petry explores a new perspective on a simple beaded necklace by creating a 50-foot strand of beach-ball-sized beads that challenges the viewer to see jewelry for all it can be.

Glass as Glass

GlassWear also addresses traditional uses of glass in jewelry, as well as the medium's inherent properties—refracted and reflected light, color, and transparency. Drawing from his country's long tradition in glassworking, Italian artist Giorgio Vigna created his blown Gorgoglio necklace (2002) at the renowned Venini glasshouse on the island of Murano. The necklace's multitude of transparent blue glass bubbles produce light refractions and reflections that challenge the wearer to match the ornament's vitality. -- www.toledomuseum.org

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