Head of the glass: Masters' work on display in Peoria

Head of the glass: Masters' work on display in Peoria

While traveling the country over the years, Urbana resident Gail Taylor has seen a lot of art glass by the American master Dale Chihuly.

One of the better groupings, though, is not too far from home, she said: at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Its "Chihuly and Friends" showcases work by Chihuly as well as two Italian masters.

"This was one of the better exhibits in terms of the number of pieces on display and the 'keep-it-real' attitude of museum staff members overseeing the space," she said.

On view through April 13, "Chihuly and Friends" features highlights from Portland, Ore., resident George R. Stroemple's collection, which is internationally recognized as one of the most significant collections documenting the studio glass movement of the Pacific Northwest, where Chihuly lives.

While Stroemple owns hundreds of examples of work by American and European glass artists, the Peoria exhibition highlights roughly 350 pieces by Chihuly, Lino Tagliapietra and Vittorio Costantini — about 300 pieces are life-size insects that Constantini created in recent years, and which fascinate younger museum visitors, according to Taylor.

The largest piece on display is "Laguna Murano Chandelier," created by Chihuly, Tagliapietra and Pino Signoretto. Chihuly teams created a number of "Chandeliers" but critics and curators consider the "Laguna Murano" the most important.

It has more than 900 glass pieces of varying sizes and shapes, including shapes reminiscent of orbs, flowers and snakes. It took 78 hours to install at the museum.

Other Chihuly pieces — all on view were created with other artists, as serious injuries earlier in Chihuly's life now prevent him from blowing glass — are from his "Macchia" series. Macchia is an Italian word for spotted; the glass pieces in the series are speckled in various colors.

The museum also is showing examples from Chihuly's Venetian series, which was inspired by the Italian art deco movement.

To make the large "Putti Venetians" (1991-94), Chihuly collaborated with Tagliapietra and Signoretto.

Chihuly has described Tagliapietra, who was born in Murano in 1934, as "perhaps the world's greatest living glass blower."

The exhibition in Peoria features 33 goblet forms by the Italian, who now lives in the Seattle area.

"His goblets represent a virtual lexicon of traditional Venetian glassblowing techniques: filigrana, murrine, incalmo, reticello, pulegoso," reads the museum news release. "Seen together, they form a kaleidoscopic fantasy of color and form."

Though Italian glass blowers were traditionally secretive about their processes, Tagliapietra traveled in 1979 to Chihuly's Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle to demonstrate Italian glass-working techniques.

"Tagliapietra knew that if glass-making at its highest level was to survive, it must expand beyond the declining industry in Murano. Defying criticism back home, Tagliapietra never stopped sharing his knowledge," according to the museum.

Costantini, who has his own workshop in Venice, contributed to the Peoria exhibition 298 sculptures of insects, among them giant bugs.

Ann Schmitt, vice president of programs at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, said a real insect is displayed among Costantini's glass ones. Museum visitors are challenged to find it.

Stroemple in 2005 commissioned Costantini to create glass entomological specimens to showcase the artist's skill. Costantini's first project for the Stroemple Collection was to create, in glass, all of the insects found in the Alexis Rockman painting, "Evolution," one of the most important works in the collection.

Costantini, who became a glass artist apprentice when he was 11, creates his pieces using the lampworking technique, also known as flame working or torch working.

In lampworking, the artist uses a torch or lamp to melt the glass. Once the glass is in a molten state, the artist can manipulate it by blowing and shaping with tools and hand movements.

If you go

What: "Chihuly and Friends: Highlights from the George R. Stroemple Collection," featuring glass art by Dale Chihuly, Lino Tagliapietra and Vittorio Costantini

When: Through April 13

Where: Peoria Riverfront Museum, 222 SW Washington St.

Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays

Admission: $10 for adults; $9 for senior citizens 60 and older; $8, youths 3 to 17 (an additional $3 is charged for "Chihuly and Friends"; all military receive $2 off of the admission price)

General information: info@peoriariverfrontmuseum.org; 309-686-7000

Also on view: "Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami" through April 27

Topics (1):Art

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