Dale Chihuly, world-renowned glass artist nonpareil, avidly embraces the evolution of his artistry. In 1968 he studied at the Venini Glass Factory in Venice to learn techniques which would help him establish a new avant-garde movement in hand-blown glass sculpting, which became a fine art.
Chihuly’s revolutionary work has burgeoned. His amazing stylistic innovations are of a singular exuberance and colorful radiance. Chihuly is a consummate believer in the possibilities of glass, and his work is once again being showcased at New York Botanical Garden in the show Chihuly.
Throughout the spring and summer until October 29th, Chihuly’s spectacular masterworks are appearing in a completely new iteration at the New York Botanical Garden’s Chihuly Exhibit. – the artist’s return to NYBG for the first time since 2006. The elegant, majestic show reveals his continual evolution as an artist.
In 2006 his exquisitely delicate Blue Herons astonished, situated amidst the reeds and plant life at the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory Courtyard’s Tropical Pool. If you saw them in 2006, look for them in a stunning new display this year. The new exhibit celebrates the artist with a retrospective of his life (he turned 75 last year) and career, and reveals that he remains in the forefront of a movement he engendered. Seeing his artistic genius boldly gracing the New York Botanical Garden’s living landscape in unique arrangements is an opportunity that will never happen quite this way again.
Chihuly’s architectural installations have been seen around the world wherever glass can be staged: botanical gardens, water settings, forests, canals, museums, deserts, ancient cities (Jerusalem and Venice), indeed anywhere his imagination brings them. His exotic sculptures have propelled beams of light into visitors’ eyes, touched their souls, uplifted their hearts. When you see his work you must acknowledge the wondrous beauty in a substance whose infinite possibilities you probably had never considered.
His broad range of work in glass and other media is included in more than 200 museum collections worldwide. His many awards include 12 honorary doctorates and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. You will see glimpses of this arc in the NYBG exhibition, which is organized to show Dale Chihuly’s journey from initiate in Venice to mature artist now further refining his talents in other media, a number of which appear here. The more than 20 installations took three weeks to ship in and set up at the Garden.
The NYBG team and the team at The Chihuly Studio collaborated to select works and themes to expand this Chihuly exhibit in the Garden, which correlates with the Garden’s expansion in 2013. The new pieces specifically designed with the NYBG in mind may be found in the Native Plant Garden, added in 2013, and the Conservatory’s Courtyard Tropical Pool.
The entire exhibit is stunning. The ebullient, striking beauty of Chihuly’s creations evokes harmonies with plants and flowers in the Garden’s smaller venues. The pieces are striking against the verdant, rolling landscape of stark, shadowy pines, water garden rushes and grasses, and eye-catching floral springtime and summer borders. Specifically arranged to offer surprises and gobsmacking moments as one saunters along Garden Way or on ancillary paths, the sculptures are in one-of-a-kind displays. Combined, Chihuly’s artistic panorama provides a united pageantry that will never be seen again after this exhibit.
This singular review includes earlier works together with new artistic achievements and timeless conceptualizations. After seeing the exhibit twice, I am reminded of Dr. Carl Gustav Jung’s writings on the unconscious. I believe if Jung were alive to view some of Chihuly’s achievements since he co-founded the international Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State (1971), he would have written about the artist’s unconscious impulses to allow intuition and in-the-moment serendipity to unleash the power of breath, heat, and fire in the creation of never before imagined hand-blown glass sculptures.
If you listen to Chihuly’s discussion of how he and his team worked in Ireland, Finland, and Mexico to eventually showcase in Italy, you note how the artist allows intuition to unfold. The discussion will help you understand what inspires his artistic creativity, a fusion of playful whimsy and joyful impulse. We are fortunate to see these works at NYBG. They symbolize Chihuly’s ethos – an uplifting and vibrant expression for our time.
The constructions are showcased in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory’s living theater displays, in the Palms of the World Gallery, and in the hallway vistas and the walkway which leads up to the seasonal display rotunda of the Conservatory where you may see the splendid White Tower With Fiori. This installation has an interesting origin. Some of the fabulous hues in it and in other works in the adjoining vista, dark blue and pale purple, can be created only with rare substances that the U.S. bans. The phenomenal work was made in 1997 in the Czech Republic. The rare mineral combined with silica turned the glass to a lustrous, glassine, pale pink. Chihuly chose this color for the delicate flowers that surround the tower. Only when the piece was finished could it be shipped back to the U.S.
As you move through the the conservatory, you will come upon the visually startling. Tucked among the lush, dark plantings are lovely, slender, tapering swan’s-neck-shaped pieces that arise from a pool of water in which their white reflections shimmer. In the Aquatic Plants and Vines Gallery fountain are scintillating the eye-popping pieces from his Macchia Forest, 2017, an exceptional, new arrangement. Dale Chihuly’s artistry of glass in harmony with water evokes a visual fluidity that draws the eye and soul with symbolic archetypes.
Water features heavily in this exhibition as it does in all Chihuly shows. In videos on his website Chihuly discusses how he designed his fabulous exhibition Chihuly Over Venice. For that exhibit he and his team suspended large glass chandeliers (hand-blown in glassworks in Finland, Ireland, and Mexico), in Venetian buildings and over the canals in a presentation that is unparalleled in historical meaning, splendor, and sheer audacity. Chandeliers are present in this exhibit too, reminiscent of that event. Chihuly has said that he is “always drawn to water,” that water is “extremely important to his work and being,” perhaps because “water is extraordinarily creative.”
Thus, it is appropriate that many installations found in Chihuly at the Garden feature water. Pieces are displayed in the pools or fountains in the Conservatory. Outside, the welcoming sculpture as you enter the Conservatory Gate is Red Reeds on Logs. The high-powered reeds are pumped up by the reflecting pool upon which they are situated and ping off the glinting surface of the water below. New artworks inspired by Chihuly’s 1975 Artpark installation (on which he collaborated with Seaver Leslie) are Koda Study #1 and #2 (in the Native Plant Garden), and Koda Study #3 in the Conservatory Courtyard. The works are made of polycarbonate sheets, another medium he originated for his art, and they create intriguing effects as daylight filters through them.
Chihuly’s vibrant constructions are also exhibited at the LuEsther T. Mertz Library. There, you may see his sculpture Blue Polyvitro Crystals, situated in the Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life which looks like huge chunks of blue ice. This work in polyvitro demonstrates Chihuly’s love of experimenting in various media. He has applied his talents to paint, sculpture, polyvitro, glass, and neon (check out the new installation Neon 206).
His gorgeous Seaforms are in a glass case inside the library. His Fire Orange Baskets (a design which he gleaned looking at Northwest Native American baskets), are on another display floor of the library. In another wing you will note the transformation of his career, shown with a revelation of his early works: a glass series and other drawings and paintings on paper.
The Chihuly Exhibition at the NYBG in this configuration will never be seen again. For that reason and for the sheer fun of it, Chihuly is a must-see. There are many programs throughout three seasons. Chihuly evenings when the installations are lit up promise to be fantastic. There is a Jazz Concert/Chihuly series. CLICK HERE for programming and the dates for Chihuly Nights.