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"New Glass Now" Amplifies a Fresh Generation of Glass Artists

It’s been 40 years since New York’s Corning Museum of Glass hosted its New Glass: A Worldwide Survey exhibition, which looked at the contemporary glass landscape from an international perspective. According to Susie Silbert, the museum’s curator of modern and contemporary glass, the 2019 New Glass Now, arrives at a particularly poignant time.

“This show gives voice to a new generation of artists, collectives, and designers from 32 countries who are both articulating and responding to our complex socio-political climate in diverse ways,” she says of the exhibition, which opens May 12 and runs through early 2020. “The works on view range wildly in scale and content. Expect the unexpected. From a glowing, immersive installation by Rui Sasaki to circuit-bent neon, queer glass, and experiments in glass chemistry, there is something for everyone.”

Silbert and three guest curators—Aric Chen, curator-at-large for Hong Kong’s M+ museum; Susanne Jøker Johnsen, artist and head of exhibitions at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation; and American artist Beth Lipman—selected works from 100 artists (there were 1,400 submissions) for New Glass Now. Those works illustrate the breadth and depth of contemporary glassmaking via objects, installations, videos, and performances, all made within the last three years. “It’s an incredibly exciting exhibition,” Silbert says. “One with works that are steeped in technical mastery and tradition alongside experimental, conceptual works that challenge the very notion of what the material of glass is and what it can do.”

Several Pacific Northwest artists are represented in the show, including Portland glassblower Dylan Brams, Seattle sculptor Amie McNeel, Lakewood, Washington-based jewelry-and-glass artist Megan Stelljes, Seattle-based glass artist Austin Sterns, and Seattle-based multidisciplinary artist Mark Zirpel. “The Puget Sound region has cultivated a dynamic community of glassmakers and thinkers that possess a deep material knowledge of glass and nurture excellence in craftsmanship,” Silbert says. “What’s particularly exciting about the PNW artists in New Glass Now is that they apply that history of skilled craftsmanship to practices that think beyond the object to its larger resonances.” She cites McNeel’s work—a slumped glass piece that explores the phenomena that glass enables—as one example.

Silbert also notes the playful nature and humor that Zirpel, Stelljes, and Sterns include in their artistic practices. Their works include, respectively, a robotic glass eyeball that appears to follow the viewer, the aptly titled “This Shit is Bananas,” which combines neon and trompe l’oeil hot-sculpted bananas in a humorous and astute political commentary, and glass monsters, combining complex Venetian glassblowing techniques with the humor of early Funk Art-infused studio glass. As Silbert notes, “New Glass Now stands on the shoulders of a 60-year history of The Corning Museum of Glass bringing contemporary glass from around the globe to new audiences.”


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