Friday, August 03, 2012

Dale Chihuly

Dale Chihuly Ivory Feather and Amber Chandelier, 2010 Hand-blown glass 84 x 73 x 73 inches Copyright: Dale Chihuly/Chihuly Studio Photo credit: Jennifer Durham

A re-post of my article in from a show in June.

A hot debate has be brewing about Dale Chihuly. Where does his work belong in contemporary art, if at all? The Huffington Post gave an online poll asking if he was even an artist at all. Well, just because he works in glass doesn’t delegitimize him as an artist, and like any art, not everything he does is a masterpiece. I find the context of his work helps to frame his work better. For example, you can see his work up in Dallas at Talley Dunn Gallery and at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

Dallas’ Botanical Garden is really the best place to see this work. Big glassware in the outdoors, tempting fate and looking like plants from another world. I have often wondered why Star Trek never used his work for alien world plants. I think the interaction of his work with nature creates an interesting dialog between art and constructed gardens of natural life. Both his glass and the plants are displayed and ordered into a joint installation. I remember being captivated by his work when I visited a few museums and seeing a video of his show in Israel, but then I kept seeing the work. An explosion of glass in art galleries and museums all over. I am reminded, however, that some key conceptual elements are still present in the work. One, no longer is art split from crafts in separate categories. Two, his willingness to display the work in the elements of outdoor space attests to his commitment to the experience of glass. In the garden, he is not concerned with preserving crafted object, because, he can replace them like a factory.

On the other hand, as in the Talley Dunn Gallery show, he does create crafted works to be displayed by collectors in homes. Though this takes away some of the conceptual punch, I think it no less brings a sense of beauty and elegance that is very artful. It seems as though both shows include some works that reach a level of “over the top” garishness, but we live in a time with Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami, so baroque is the order of the day.

Dale Chihuly’s work will be on display at Talley Dunn Gallery until August 18th, while The Dallas’ Botanical Garden installation will be out until November 5th. Plus, the Dallas Museum of Art has a piece up now and then and the Jesuit Dallas Museum also has a piece.

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