SHE DRINKS a beer.
He feeds her spaghetti: "Now open wide." He grins.
Her gold hair glistens.
They were not meant for each other. She is a babe. He is a boob.
They could shatter, they could break.
They're made of glass.
This is "Romance," Dan Dailey style. His show at the Renwick Gallery, "Dan Dailey: Glass, 1972-1987" is a serio-comic exploitation of the medium. It's fun.
Dailey is incredibly inventive. As a teen-ager, he hoped to be a professional cartoonist. His drawings here, starting points, are even wackier than the glass works that come out in the end. (In one drawing, two deranged collectors fight over an expensive vase; the vase looks terribly bored.)
Dailey has the lively mind that makes a good cartoonist -- whether he applies it to his sculptured wall reliefs on everyday life such as "Romance," or to his much subtler vases.
The wall reliefs are impressive in size and coups of craftsmanship, combining opaque Vitrolite glass with zinc- and chrome-plated brass. But they're a bit like commercial art. One tires of looking at them. The crass people in these puzzles are not pretty.
By contrast one feels drawn to the pellucid vessel called "Euripides," from Dailey's Portrait Vase series. True, it's just a vase -- but one done in an alluring Aegean blue. Cut into the glass are the symmetrical features of a classical face, framed with curls stolen from Greek statues. Dailey's wry humor is still there, but now it's an allusion.
Dailey enjoys combining the elegance of crystal with a mundane subject -- such as in his "Tollbooth and Hitchhiker" vase -- the driver's arm reaching out to the tolltaker, frozen in time. Or in "Pencils and Canes" -- tripods made of three canes screwed together, holding up clear vases into which are screwed pencil stubs. (Now why didn't we think of that?)
The world of Dan Dailey is illuminated with bird lamps, acrobat lamps, antelope lamps. And it is sometimes peopled with Pac-Man-like automatons. In "Gift of Gab," two talking heads yammer at each other from screwed-on mouths. They have double tongues, bright red. They don't look human.
DAN DAILEY: GLASS, 1972-1987 --
Through October 25 at the Renwick Gallery.