Tag Archives: Toledo Museum of Art

Hot Spot in the Glass City

hotspot stefan damm
Picture Block by Steffen Dam

Blown, cast, cut, colored or clear, opaque or translucent, artworks made from glass have a seductive quality that is hard to resist. Hot Spot: Contemporary Glass from Private Collections, marks the tenth anniversary of the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion. The exhibit, on view now through September 18, includes more than 80 works, many of which are promised gifts to the museum.

Glass, in industry and in art, has a particularly symbiotic relationship with Toledo. When  Edward Drummond Libbey moved his family-owned business, New England Glass Works, from Massachusetts to Ohio in 1888, he brought the technical expertise that would make Toledo a center for manufactured glass, first as tableware and then as a producer of electric lights, automobile parts and building materials.  Libbey was also one of the co-founders in 1901 of the Toledo Museum of Art and its most important benefactor. Along with initial funds donated for building the museum, Libbey remained a major donor until his death in 1925,  after which Florence Scott Libbey continued to give generously to the museum.  In 1962, The museum allowed a glass studio to be built in a garage on the museum grounds and with expert advice from glass makers at Libbey-Owens-Ford, the studio glass movement was born. In 1969, the Toledo Museum of Art became the first museum ever to create a glass studio to train artists in the use of glass as a medium.  In 2006, the Glass Pavilion, housing the glass studio and the museum’s extensive glass collection, was built.

glass Dan Dailey Polar bear vessel
Polar Bear Vessel by Dan Dailey

From my walk through Hot Spot, it became clear to me  that glass is a protean medium, hard to pin down or to quantify. Some pieces are very focused on the impressive craft involved (Mantidi Cruising by Emanuel Toffalo), others are more conceptual in ambition (Point of View by Christopher Ries).   One of the great challenges in the installation is to create a sense of logic and organization from objects disparate in color, translucency, method, and most of all, in intent.  The curator has here chosen to group the artworks by category for clarification (Built Environment, Natural World, Human Figure and the like) but it seemed to me that the objects could have just as easily been organized by color, type of glass technique employed or source of the piece (I found I liked the works collected by  Margy and Scott Trumbull the most).

The general effect of the exhibit is  a bit diffuse. The space itself has a kind of unfocused quality due to the wall-less, all-window architecture and the variously translucent or transparent qualities of much of the work. I seemed to be looking through things rather than at them much of the time. But in spite of these distractions, I liked some of the individual pieces very much. In particular I was delighted to find a large piece by  Steffen Dam, my favorite glass artist of all time.  His hybrid blown and hot-worked glass compositions  are a magical evocation of the natural world, at once matter-of -fact and ethereal. I also liked Light In by Ann Wolff, a cast glass piece which seemed to illustrate a body in motion over time.

hotspot Richard Marquis
Teapot Sample with Lustre Bird by Richard Marquis

Some of the pieces were a bit too decorative to please and gave off a whiff of art fair whimsy,  but on the whole this is an impressive survey of fine art in a medium much beloved in the Glass City.

For more information about the exhibit go here

 

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Beauty is Strange…

and this strangeness differentiates it from prettiness, which is no ordinary thing.”                    Fred Tomaselli 2008

In Keep Looking: Fred Tomaselli’s Birds, now on exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art,  the artworks first soothe and attract, then disquiet and disturb.  This  show is part of a series featuring   bird-related imagery which is held biennially in conjunction with a prominent yearly convention of birders in the Toledo area.  While this is as good a pretext as any for bringing this work to the rust belt, it doesn’t begin to describe the importance and interest of this artist.

Tomaselli Mob
Mob 2016

I have been a fan of Fred Tomaselli’s paintings for years, and looked forward to this golden opportunity to see them in person without buying a plane ticket (thanks TMA!) This show includes 5 paintings, a tapestry and a few assorted works on paper, all installed in Gallery 6 of the museum’s contemporary art wing.

The first thing you respond to in looking at a Tomaselli painting is its sheer obsessive  and hallucinatory beauty. The paintings feature layers of meticulously collaged images covered in resin and then over-painted.  The black backgrounds evoke night skies and acid trips. Though it isn’t mentioned in the accompanying museum text, it’s clear that Tomaselli is no stranger to altered states.

artwork_images_117082_505034_fred-tomaselli
Bird Battle

I loved all these paintings, but my favorite was Bird Battle (1997). The subdued palette and obsessive repetition of cutout birds with human eyes and (actual) hemp leaves put me in mind of some outsider visionary art.  From a distance the painting delivers a pleasurable punch of decorative pattern.  But as you draw near you see that this is a savage battle of all against all.  Birds attack each other in the air and in the trees, with many lying newly dead on the ground.  Tomaselli has distilled in one image all the beauty and all the cruelty of nature. In other pieces in this show, birds attack each other (Bird Mob), eat insects (Starling) and steal fruit (Migrant Fruit Thugs) but because the paintings are so intricately gorgeous  you can’t look away. You must keep looking.

Keep Looking: Fred Tomaselli’s Birds is on exhibit until August 7.  To see this must-see work and to get more information about hours and directions to the Toledo Museum of Art go here 

 

 

 

It’s Play Time at the Toledo Museum of Art

photo by Tim Gaewsky
photo by Tim Gaewsky

Play Time opened on May 22 at the Toledo Museum of Art. The exhibit celebrates the art of diversion and the value of play to both refresh the human spirit and inspire creativity. Unlike “look but don’t touch” exhibitions, this interactive, family-friendly, hands-on exhibition enables visitors to immerse themselves in contemporary art as they may never have done before.

“This show is not only about play in the traditional sense, but also the idea of being in the moment, of inspiring wonder, of invoking your natural curiosity,” said Halona Norton-Westbrook, who is co-curating the exhibition with the Museum’s associate director Amy Gilman.

“It’s an experimental exhibition that aims to defy traditional ideas of viewing art by providing interactive experiences. The exhibition is not confined to a single gallery, and in fact, it will change throughout June, July and August so viewers will need to come more than once to see it all,” said Norton-Westbrook, who is the Museum’s Mellon Fellow and associate curator of contemporary art.

Major works in the exhibition include room-sized Harmonic Motion by artists Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam and Charles Richard MacAdam, which was initially commissioned by Enel Contemporenea in Rome. The colorful, multi-sensory installation allows children and adults to climb and play inside its hand-crocheted hanging nets.

Play Time continues through Sept. 6. The exhibition is sponsored in part by ProMedica and made possible with the support of Museum members and the sustainability grant program of the Ohio Arts Council. In addition to works of art being added and subtracted from the exhibition during its run, a wide range of exhibition-related programs is planned. A list of programs follows. For more information, visit http://playtime.toledomuseum.org/. The Museum is open every day except Monday and will be closed on Memorial Day and on Labor Day.