Monday, September 9, 2013

Color Icon: Dale Chihuly

If ever there was an artist known for working with color it's Dale Chihuly. His wild, extravagant sculptures push the limits of glass, that material we think of as fragile but utilitarian, until it seems weightless and plastic. Born in 1941 Chihuly is an American glass sculptor who has spent years exploring, teaching, and expanding the field of glass sculpture. He studied art, sculpture and interior design before, in 1968, heading off to Venice to study glass as a Fulbright fellow.

He continued to  blow glass himself even after a car accident left him blind in one eye.  He was injured by  his pet material when he flew through the  car windshield.   Years later a shoulder injury left him unable to manage the equipment and he had to hire assistants. This stepping back, getting a view of the big picture turned out favorably for the artist as the complexity and grandeur of his pieces grew.

Chihuly's style developed a maximalist revelry in both shape and color. His  fantastical and organic pieces like plants lured from a Doctor Seuss book were allowed to grow huge and bulbous. And with this scale came a change from  individual blown pieces to the creation of a community of glass pieces. This sense of collective shape, of cumulative color, of superorganism, all expand glass from the one off individuals of utilitarian or even craft focused glass into the wider art conversation.

Chihuly shows us that individual, distinct colors or shapes, can be dropped in favor of environments of objects and gradients of colors. We experience color and shape not as separate from their location but as locations themselves. His work shows us that when we think about color it can be in three dimensional surround sound.   Sometimes abandon leads to our greatest creative breakthroughs.

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