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April Issue 2005
Mint Museum of Craft + Design in Charlotte, NC, Presents Major Glass Exhibition
The Mint Museum of Craft + Design
in Charlotte, NC, will present the exhibition, MURANO: Glass
from The Olnick Spanu Collection, on view from Apr. 2 through
Aug. 21, 2005.
Showcasing approximately 290 outstanding examples of blown glass, this exhibition offers a comprehensive, chronological examination of Venetian glass making in the twentieth century. MURANO: Glass from The Olnick Spanu Collection explores the nature of modern, artistic Murano glass in terms of its distinct characteristics and its relation to international design. Drawn exclusively from the private collection of Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu of New York, these works in glass represent many of the finest examples of Murano glass in the world.
The Spanus began their collection in 1989 with the purchase of an emerald green and cobalt blue Clessidra (hourglass) by Paolo Venini and quickly became passionate about Murano glass, intuitively choosing works that reflect major twentieth-century art movements. The strength and stylistic diversity of their encyclopedic collection demonstrate not only the richness of modern Murano glass, but also the close relation of the fine and decorative arts.
Opening the exhibition is a stunning array of mosaic glass vases made between 1910 and 1919 by the firm Artisti Barovier. The exuberant floral patterns of these vessels recall the Secessionist movement and the decorative aspects of the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, as well as the stile liberty paintings of Vittorio Zecchin. A quieter counterpoint is established by a series of spare, monochromatic forms made by Zecchin for V.S.M. Cappellin Venini & Co., which intentionally recall their historical precedents. Also included are Napoleone Martinuzzi's bubbling Pulegoso vessels, which offer stunning variations on the classical amphora form. These and others by Ercole Barovier, beautifully illustrate the playfulness and whimsy so characteristic of this period.
The interwar period (1930s-1940s) offers, perhaps, the most significant representation of glass, both in quantity and artistic diversity. Highlights include works by Ercole Barovier, a variety of gold leafed vessels by Tomaso Buzzi, and the enigmatic and metaphysical Bottiglie Morandiane by Gio Ponti for Venini. Showcased as well, is a handsome selection of classical forms by Napoleone Martinuzzi and a comprehensive survey of glass designed by Carlo Scarpa, one of the most prominent Italian architects of the twentieth century.
Designed like his buildings, Scarpa's vessels are masterpieces of understatement. Air traps, foil inlays, internal polychromatic glass filaments, and wheel-carved surfaces were among the vast variety of technical means available to Scarpa at the Murano firms of M.V.M. Cappellin and Venini. By subtly modulating traditional forms, color palette, and decorative techniques, Scarpa pioneered a dynamic new aesthetic.
The postwar period (1950s) is largely devoted to the dramatic designs of Fulvio Bianconi and Paolo Venini for Venini & C., and Ercole Barovier for Barovier & Toso. Like handkerchiefs softly parachuting down, the so-called Fazzoletti are among the most celebrated icons by Bianconi and Venini. Whereas, Bianconi's Pezzatoseries comprises bold, geometric "tesserae" or tiles that have been "picked up" and fused together like a patchwork quilt, Venini's organic "hourglasses" or Clessidre employ the incalmo technique, which weds two forms, of complementary colors, whose openings are of precisely the same dimensions. Both bodies of work offer dramatic displays of form and color.
Among the most dazzling works
of fused glass are the highly Expressionistic, exuberant forms
of Dino Martens for Aureliano Toso. Equally stunning are architect
Massimo Vignelli's classically pure pitchers and organic lighting
designs for Venini.
During these years of prosperity (1960s), Muranese glass artists developed a broad spectrum of artistic expressions. At one end is Alfredo Barbini's elegantly shaped Vetro pesante, an abstract sculpture reminiscent of those by Constantin Brancusi, while at the other end are the brilliantly colored, whimsical birds by Peter Pelzel and Alessandro Pianon. This period heralded in a new era in Murano, influenced by foreign designers, who visited the island specifically to avail themselves to Muranese glassblowing expertise.
Among the most influential works in the exhibition are a series of exquisite vases conceived by the American Thomas Stearns, who was inspired by indigenous motifs such as the Doge's hat and Venetian canal pilings. At the same time, clean lines and spare forms, characteristic of Scandinavian Modern design, surface in the vases by the famed Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala.
Spanning nearly three decades (1970s-1990s), the last quarter of the twentieth century saw an even larger influx of international guests to Murano. Among them were American glass artists James Carpenter and "Toots" Zynsky, who created vases with vivid threaded patterns. Whereas Japanese-born glass artist Yoichi Ohira has developed acutely complex and refined compositions, with his seemingly opaque, ceramic-inspired vessel forms. Cristiano Bianchin has cut a variety of elaborate patterns on his organic glass vessels, sheathing them in hemp to create his otherworldly landscapes. Of particular note is Gae Aulenti's Sfera. This vibrant red sphere was designed in 1999 as part of Venini's Millennium series. Works of renowned architects and designers Franco Albini and Franca Helg, Ettore Sottsass, and Marco Zanini are among those featured. Finally, in Boats, Maestro Lino Tagliapietra presents magnificent, modern rendering of Venice's most quintessential symbol, the gondola.
The exhibition concludes with the spare, color-saturated, monochromatic sculptures of Laura Diaz de Santillana and a thoroughly modern floral composition by Giorgio Vigna, both of whom are designing for Venini in Murano today, at the beginning of this new century.
MURANO: Glass from The Olnick Spanu Collection opened in New York at the American Craft Museum (now Museum of Arts and Design) in the fall of 2000. This new, expanded version, again curated by noted Venetian glass historian Marino Barovier, was exhibited previously at The Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA, and at The MFA Houston, Houston, TX.
MURANO: Glass from The Olnick Spanu Collection was organized and circulated by Exhibitions International, New York, NY. A full color catalogue featuring essays by: Exhibition Curator Marino Barovier, David Revere McFadden, Susanne K. Frantz, Benjamin Moore, and Ettore Sottsass, as well as related exhibition merchandise, will be available for sale through the Mint Museum Shops.
Exhibition Curator Marino Barovier belongs to a family whose association with the glass industry in Venice dates at least to the Renaissance. He is an internationally renowned glass historian and the author of books on the work of Carlo Scarpa and Lino Tagliapietra. Internationally celebrated designers Massimo and Lella Vignelli designed the installation, publication, and graphics for Murano: Glass from the Olnick Spanu Collection. The Vignellis were honored with the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Smithsonian Institution´s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. The National Tour of this exhibition is sponsored by Venini.
The Mint Museums are supported, in part, with a Basic Operating Grant from the Arts & Science Council, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Inc.; the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the State ofNorth Carolina and the National Endowment for the Arts; the City of Charlotte; and their members.
The exhibition is sponsored by The Founders' Circle Ltd., the national support affiliate of the Mint Museum of Craft + Design.
For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 704/337-2000 or at (www.mintmuseum.org).
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