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Venice and American Studio Glass: Enduring and Versatile Legacy

Le Stanze Del Vetro on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore hosts the exhibition Venice and American Studio Glass exhibition from the 6th of September 2020 until 10th January 2021. The show presents 155 outstanding glass vessels, sculptures and installations created by 60 American and Venetian artists.

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Le Stanze Del Vetro hosts the exhibition Venice and American Studio Glass on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore from the 6th of September 2020 until 10th January 2021. The show presents 155 outstanding glass vessels, sculptures and installations created by 60 American and Venetian artists, this exhibition will be the first to closely examine the influences of traditional Venetian glass-working techniques, as well as the Venetian aesthetic, on American Studio Glass from the 1960s to the present.   

The goal of the mid- to late-20th Century American Studio Glass movement was to free glassmaking from industrial processes and to develop glass in the artist’s studio as a material for contemporary art. Some artists took the new studio glassblowing in experimental and innovative directions in the late 1960s, yet most Americans were hampered by their lack of technical knowledge.  

By 1960, glassblowing had become industrialized in the United States and many skills were lost, so American Studio Glass artists looked to Europe, and especially to Venice and the glassblowers on the island of Murano, for guidance.  What ensued was a “love affair” with Venetian glass-working that, by the end of the 1990s, had spread throughout the United States and worldwide. 

Venice and American Studio Glass will demonstrate the powerful, enduring and versatile legacy of Venetian glassmaking in America by exploring the impact of Venice on contemporary American art in glass. It will examine how American and Venetian maestri—primarily Lino Tagliapietra and Pino Signoretto—renewed creativity and vibrancy of a historic craft language, and further developed it to make superb works of art.

Many of the artists included in the exhibition have had a profound influence on the development of American Studio Glass, either by teaching and working with other artists and by using traditional Venetian glass-working techniques to make unique new works. 

Pioneering artists such as Dale Chihuly and Benjamin Moore traveled to Venice, learned Venetian techniques, and then invited Venetian maestros to the United States to teach.  While Chihuly made some Venetian-inspired series over his long and prolific career, Moore’s body of work focuses specifically on Venetian ideas. Richard Marquis, who also traveled to Venice, developed entirely new uses for the Venetian mosaic technique, known as murrine, for his American flag-inspired objects, crazy quilt teapots, and Marquiscarpa vessels. 

Other artists, such as Dante Marioni, Nancy Callan, and James Mongrain learned from American studio glass pioneers but more importantly had access to the technical knowledge of Venetian maestros early in their careers. They each draw in very different ways on the history of Venetian glass to create compelling new vessels, objects, and installations.  While certain artists focused on the vessel, others focused on sculpture, such as William Morris and Martin Blank, who investigated Venetian sculpting techniques.  Beginning with vessels, Flora Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick expanded their vision into large-scale sculpture, taking traditional Venetian decorative ideas in exciting directions.  

Josiah McElheny, Katherine Gray and Norwood Viviano represent a new generation of artists working in the Venetian style that approaches glass in a more narrative way, using objects as data to inform landscapes and stories. Whether working primarily in glass or coming to glass from outside the glass community, via open access studios, artists today continue to push the traditional boundaries of art in glass.

For the first time, Le Stanze Del Vetro reaches outside of its usual exhibition space and moves into La Piscina, the former swimming pool of the Giorgio Cini Foundation, designed by architect Clemente Gandini in 1960, and which was used for more than twenty years by generations of Venetians. Until 10th of January 2021, the public will enjoy rediscovering this fascinating facility, which has become the stage for the spectacular work in glass Laguna Murano Chandelier. The chandelier, produced in 1996 in Murano by Dale Chihuly, together with the glass masters Lino Tagliapietra and Pino Signoretto, incorporates eight sculptural elements that evoke the Venice lagoon.

Due to the adverse consequences of the spread of the Covid-19 virus, Le Stanze Del Vetro has decided to postpone the opening of the Venice and American Studio Glass show, curated by Tina Oldknow and William Warmus, to 6th of September 2020. The exhibition will remain open to the public on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore until 10th January 2021.

Cover image, Nancy Callan, The Robber, 2016. H. 78.8 cm. Pat and Doug Perry Collection, Norfolk, Virginia. Photo: Russell Johnson.

Dante Marioni, Yellow in Red “Z” Leaf Pair, 2017. H. 121.3 cm. Photo: Russell Johnson
Stephen Rolfe Powell, Lascivious Torrid Cleavage (detail), 2003. H. 104,8 cm. Photo: Stephen Rolfe Powell
Harvey K. Littleton, Blue Projectile Impact, 1984. H. 61.6 cm. Courtesy Maurine Littleton Gallery
Dante Marioni, Yellow in Red “Z” Leaf Pair, 2017. H. 121.3 cm. Photo: Russell Johnson
Stephen Rolfe Powell, Lascivious Torrid Cleavage (detail), 2003. H. 104,8 cm. Photo: Stephen Rolfe Powell
William Morris, Canopic Jar: Elk (Spike), 1993. Tacoma Art Museum, promised gift of the Rebecca and Jack Benaroya Collection. H. 77,5 cm. Photo: Duncan Price
Dan Dailey, Prima Donnas (“Circus Vase” Series), 2012. H. 45,1 cm. Photo: Bill Truslow
Flora C. Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick, The Edge of Certainty, 2002. H. 200,7 cm. Photo: Rob Vinnedge
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