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CHIHULY

Dale Chihuly
(1941-)

Text from Henry Geldzahler's Forward to "Chihuly: Color, Glass and Form"

"The first image that comes to mind when we attempt to describe Dale Chihuly's work and his trajectory through life is one of fluid movement with elusively inflected highlights. His life, largely spent on the road, is dictated by his prime obsessions, the making of glass and the conditions of exhibiting it. In recent years he has come to the conclusion that his task does not end when the glass has been blown and allowed to cool. Photographing the work and designing simple, effective installations are necessary stages in communicating with his audience.

"The delightful thing about much new art of quality is its mischievous ability to break the rules. Chihuly successfully resists being trapped in many of the pigeonholes that make for neat categories, but leach art of its complexity. First, he confidently bestrides the distinction between craft and art. And second, he has never felt the need to choose between abstraction and representation - between the natural and the invented which has proven the great bugaboo in art all these years.

"This issue of art vs. craft has been rearing its head in American art in the past decade. It is a conflict that is destined to become invisible and indivisible with time, if it hasn't already. Artists as diverse as Kenneth Price and Peter Voulkos in ceramic, Wendell Castle in wood, and Dale Chihuly in glass have crossed the Rubicon, never to step backward into the medieval guild. The blurring of art categories is one of the bequests of the radicalism of the 1960s that these artists have effected and benefited from. Old distinctions between "fine" and "decorative" art, between the "uselessness" of high art and the "usefulness" of furniture, vessels, and porcelain no longer have meaning for us. They have taken their place with the "Impossible" conflicts of previous generations: Romantic vs. Classic, Sacred vs. Profane.

"What is the "use" of a Dale Chihuly sculpture? (Note how easily "sculpture" and not "piece of glass" slips into our discussion.) It locates the magic and alchemy inherent in molten glass, in gorgeous and permanent materiality. His work stands for change in constancy, highlights on surfaces of permanent fluidity, which cannot help but serve as an ethical standard for anyone who lives with it. One may put oranges or limes in his "baskets" or dried flowers in his "cylinders, but one can also use a Picasso to cover a hole in the wall.

"Dale's formative years as a student and young teacher were the 1960s, a period in which Color Field painting was a dominant sensibility. Clement Greenberg's hold on the imagination was most vivid, and it was the veils of Morris Louis, the chevrons and stripes of Kenneth Noland, and the large stained chromatic landscapes of Helen Frankenthaler that heralded a new aesthetic sensibility. And yet it was a sensibility whose roots could be traced back a hundred years in the masters of watercolor - Homer, Prendergast, Marin, Demuth. It was their way with light and air, their identification of the paper as the support that also existed as a source of light, that served the Color Field painters as example and inspiration.

"Intuitively, Chihuly seems to be working within these great American traditions of watercolor and Color Field painting. In his progression from "Indian blanket" to "basket" to "sea" forms and to the new series, the Macchia, his freedom in working with brilliant and fresh color juxtapositions and his play with the diaphanous clarities of glass show him updating art history through an unexplored medium. By skipping back to the generation of Winslow Homer and Louis Comfort Tiffany, we can identify the concerns and abilities with color that they shared and bequeathed to subsequent generations of artists. It is this American tradition of color plenitude that Chihuly raids, updates, and continually expands.

"Chihuly's recent series, Macchia (Italian for "spotted"), resists analysis by reason of its "rightness," its truth both to nature, from which certain of the forms derive, and to his own sensibility, well established during the two decades in which Chihuly has produced masterly glass. Faced with the bountiful color of the surfaces in the Macchia and the ampleness of their volumes, one can only thrill at their unerring poise, caught as they are midway between a soap bubble and a sculpture. It is no wonder that Chihuly likes to say, "One of my favorite artists has always been Harry Houdini - maybe that's what I'm trying to be - a magician."

"In the Macchia series, Chihuly succeeds once again, this time with larger and more ample forms and with his brilliance of color undiminished."

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Chihuly, Dale Sea Form 1984 Glass 20 x 30 x 34 in D. Busher

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Chihuly, Dale Sea Form 1983 Glass 20 x 36 x 35 in D. Busher

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Chihuly, Dale Sea Form 1985 Glass 8 x 32 x 38 in E. Claycomb

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Chihuly, Dale Sea Form 1983 Glass 15 x 20 x 22 in I. Garber

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Chihuly, Dale Scarlet Lake Macchia with Hooker's Green Dark Lip Wrap 1986 Glass 20 x 24 x 24 in K. Zumwalt

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Chihuly, Dale Pink White Flower Form 1985 Glass 44 x 84 x 62 in R. Schreiber

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Chihuly, Dale Pilchuk Baskets 1980 Glass Largest: 14 x 9 x 9 in I. Garber

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Chihuly, Dale Pilchuk Baskets 1978 Glass 12 x 20 x 22 in I. Garber

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Chihuly, Dale Macchia 1985 Glass 21 x 24 x 20 in D. Busher

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Chihuly, Dale Macchia 1985 Glass 15 x 32 x 29 in D. Busher

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Chihuly, Dale Macchia 1983 Glass 15 x 28 x 28 in D. Busher

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Chihuly, Dale Macchia 1985 Glass 20 x 18 x 17 in D. Busher

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Chihuly, Dale Cadmium Lemon Macchia with Violeta Lip Wrap 1986 Glass 16 x 36 x 60 in K. Zumwalt