Seeing History Through Objects

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Finding Blenko’s Place in Glass History

It is hard to overlook Blenko glass—it’s colorful, distinctive, and sometimes very big. But its important role in the history of American glass design has been largely overlooked until recently. Thanks in large part to specialist dealer Damon Crain, who recently joined the Domus Design Collection (DDC) showroom in New York, the most creative designs produced by the Blenko Glass Company in West Virginia in the second and third quarters of the twentieth century are taking their rightful place in the history of American glass and in the holdings of American museums. To wit: Sixteen pieces have recently been acquired by the Toledo Museum of Art, whose glass collection is considered to be among the most comprehensive and historically significant in the world.

Much colored glass is misattributed as Blenko, says Crain, who’s made it his mission to set the record straight (see the website he’s built). While the firm made lots of fairly ordinary tablewares (albeit in vivid colors), between 1947 and 1974 four in-house design directors were responsible for a number of designs that can be said to form the missing link in American glass history, between the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany and the studio glass movement of the 1970s.

You might have time to catch the exhibition of “architectural scale” Blenko (that’s the big stuff) that Crain has on view at DDC until July 21. If not, he’s already working on a show called Masterworks, which will feature the one hundred most important designs of that crucial period between 1947 and 1974.