Breakout Efforts at the Corning Museum of Glass

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Those who don’t consider glass a major art medium will think again after visiting a fascinating exhibition that opens in May at the Corning Museum of Glass. New Glass Now will showcase the extraordinary potential of the familiar, but always surprising material in artworks made in the last three years by one hundred artists from twenty-five countries around the world.

This Shit is Bananas by Megan Stelljes, 2017. ALEC MILLER PHOTO

Broader in scope than most glass exhibitions, the show includes work created using every conceivable technique, including neon, carving, and kiln-working, as well as pieces made using the more frequently seen casting and hand-blowing methods. The first exhibition of its kind in four decades, it follows precedents set at the Corning Museum by Glass 1959 and New Glass: A Worldwide Survey twenty years later. Both of the earlier exhibitions were major influences on the development of studio glassmaking and helped call attention to the accomplishments of talented and under-appreciated artists.

Liquid Sunshine by Rui Sasaki, 2018. This roomsized installation was part of the Corning Museum of Glass’s 33rd Rakow commission, a program started by the museum in 1986 to support the development of new works of glass art. COURTESY OF YASUSHI ICHIKAWA.

The current exhibition is the fruit of a year-long international search that yielded more than 1,400 submissions from fifty-two countries. The one hundred pieces in the show were chosen by a panel headed by Susie Silbert, Corning’s curator of modern and contemporary glass, and including Aric Chen, curator-at-large of the M+ museum in Hong Kong; Susanne Jøker Johnsen, artist and head of exhibitions at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts; and American artist Beth Lipman.

Rise Over Run Again by Nate Ricciuto, 2017. TONY WALSH PHOTO.

As the exhibition proves, glass is rife with contradictions: it can be clear or opaque, fragile or sturdy, colorless or brilliantly hued, rough or smooth, flat or formed into surprising shapes and sizes. Works on display range from Cloud, an etched glass cube by Miya Ando to Liquid Sunshine, Rue Sasaki’s curtain-like installation of undulating phosphorescent lengths of blown glass.

Bubble Cabinet by Jeroen and Joep Verhoeven, 2017. PRUDENCE CUMING ASSOCIATES PHOTO.

Some artists have combined glass with other materials: a staircase-shaped work by Nate Ricciuto incorporates wood, steel, and carpeting, and a rock-like piece by Sarah Briland includes foam and resin. The roster of artists, who range in age from twenty-three to eighty-four, includes celebrated designers like Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Tord Boontje, and the Verhoeven Twins, as well as virtual unknowns for whom the exhibition will offer their first major exposure.

“The field is ripe for reevaluation and reinvigoration,” says Silbert. If New Glass Now demonstrates that the latter process has begun, the exhibition may well also jump-start the former.

New Glass Now is on view at the Corning Museum of Glass from May 12 through January 5, 2020.