The Renwick Gallery's "Glass! Glorious Glass!" features not only the work of Therman Statom but also pieces by 40 additional artists, including five by glass master Dale Chihuly. The show is the first overall look at glass art by the Renwick since 1990 and the first of five shows exploring the gallery's permanent collection of glass, clay, metal, wood and fiber.
Glass, currently the hot medium in the craft world, was selected not only for its current high status but also because the Renwick Gallery's glass collection is weak.
"Glass, in our collection, needs developing," said Renwick curator Kenneth Trapp. "So the idea is to look at our permanent collection. It will be a means to develop that collection."
The show also was an opportunity, Trapp says, "not to repeat other shows with big-name artists." So, of the 41 artists exhibited, many are still relatively unknown.
Among them are Roger Parramore, a recluse who specializes in ultra-delicate and slim chalices and other liturgical objects, and pop artist Susie Krasnican, whose "Dress for Success," a glass dress with sayings about success etched all over it, is in the show. Among more well-known artists is Toots Zynsky with a vase of brightly colored glass threads.
The art glass movement was born in the early 1960s. Harvey Littleton, then a teacher at the University of Wisconsin, is widely acknowledged to be the founder. He began to blow abstract sculptural forms, breaking with a long and ingrained decorative tradition. In the 1970s, Chihuly, working out of Seattle, made a name for himself by popularizing nonfunctional glass sculpture. He has become an art icon, with a swashbuckling cowboy image that partly stems from the fact that he wears an eye patch, the result of a car accident. In Washington alone, Chihuly has had three solo museum shows in the past six years.
"Chihuly has single-handedly brought glass up to a high level. Every time you turn around there's another Chihuly show. The public can't get enough," Trapp says.
Trapp hopes the public won't be able to get enough of the other artists as well. The show runs through Jan. 30.