The Mysteries and Paradoxes of Glass at Spartanburg Art Museum

March 27, 2015 at 11:47 am

Glass is an incredible substance. It is one of mankind’s oldest inventions, yet is a vital technology in the present day. It is neither a liquid nor a solid but exhibits properties of both.  Glass defies categorization, and although we constantly make use of it — when we drink a glass of water or use our 8×8-inch Pyrex dish to bake some brownies — it is an extraordinary material. When we encounter glass at its best – as in the north rose window of Chartres Cathedral or in millefiori paperweights from the Venetian Island of Murano — we seldom recognize it as the same prosaic material that holds our leftovers in the refrigerator. Explore the paradoxes and mysteries of glass at Spartanburg Art Museum (SAM) April 24-July 5 in two new exhibitions.

Furnace and Flame: Contemporary Studio Glass, a group exhibition curated by John Littleton and Kate Vogel features the work of 14 glass artists. This stunning exhibition is a great introduction to appreciating glass as a fine art material. The selected works are a comprehensive survey of the studio processes used in contemporary glass making. Participating artists include: Dean Allison, Rick Beck, Alex Bernstein, Kate Bernstein, William Bernstein, Jennifer Bueno, Thor Bueno, David Chatt, Shane Fero, Robert Gardner, Harvey Littleton, John Littleton, and Kate Vogel.

“The museum is incredibly fortunate to have glass works in this exhibition by Harvey Littleton, who was responsible for moving glass from an industrial process to a studio practice back in the mid-1950s,” SAM Executive Director Elizabeth Goddard said. “Littleton founded the first studio glass program in 1962 at the art school of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, which is widely considered to have been the first college-level glassblowing course offered in the United States. One of his former students, Daly Chihuly, has become one of the most well-known glass artists living and working today.

“We are excited to have Harvey Littleton’s son John Littleton in the exhibition as well,” Goddard said. “A glass artist himself, John has been collaborating with his wife, Kate Vogel, since the early 1980s. Their blown and cast glass works are in private and public collections in the United States, Europe, and Japan including such prestigious museums as the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA, and the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC.” The couple lives and works in Bakersville, NC. They will speak about their work at 7 p.m. during the opening reception on Saturday, May 2, 5-8 p.m.

The second glass exhibition, The Kaplan Collection: Vintage Perfume Bottles, is on view April 24-July 5 in the Alcove Gallery. Jay and Pamela Kaplan have been collecting perfume bottles from the DeVilbiss Company of Toledo, Ohio, for more than 20 years. Their collection includes more than 400 bottles produced by important American glass houses such as Steuben, Cambridge, Frye, and Imperial. The majority of the collection features bottles manufactured between 1924 and 1929, when Art Deco was at its height in America and Europe.

These two exhibitions coincide with the International Perfume Bottle Association convention at the Spartanburg Marriott, April 20-May 3.  Hundreds of avid glass enthusiasts and collectors from all over the globe will be present, and the museum is pleased to have an exhibition that will enrich their cultural experience while in Spartanburg.  A special reception for The Kaplan Collection: Vintage Perfume Bottles will be held Friday, May 1, 1-3 p.m.  One-hundred bottles will be on view. The Kaplans will share their stories and experiences in collecting, which has taken them far and wide for the past 20 years.

Spartanburg Art Museum worked with Kaplan to develop a series of Lunch and Learn presentations to help educate the community about the incredibly diverse nature of glass, both from a historical perspective and contemporary one. “It’s been wonderful working with Jay,” Goddard commented. “He is extremely knowledgeable about the various processes used to work glass and their historical context, as well as enthusiastic about sharing his collection with the community.  His energy is infectious.”

This free series of presentations takes place in the Rainey Conference Room at Chapman Cultural Center. Attendees are invited to bring their lunch and meet other glass enthusiasts and collectors.

April 9, 12-1 p.m. Glass, Miracle Born of Fire. Presented by Elizabeth and Frank Creech.  They will explore the scope and versatility of glass, highlighting cultures, techniques and glass artists.

April 23, 12-1 p.m. Contemporary Studio Glass. Presented by John Littleton and Kate Vogel.  They will speak about their experiences as glass artists and collaborators and give an overview of the Furnace and Flame: Contemporary Studio Glass exhibition that they co-curated.

Both exhibitions are on view April 24 through July 5. Museum Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. For more information, please call (864) 582-7616 or visit spartanburgartmuseum.org.