4 Glass Sculptures That Changed the Course of Art History

July 20, 2016

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The studio glass movement, which has blossomed into a rich and vast world of contemporary glass art made by extraordinary artists from around the world, first got its start in 1962 at the Toledo Museum of Art. Harvey Littleton, a ceramics professor, and Dominick Labino, a chemist and engineer, teamed up to conduct two workshops, during which they experimented with melting glass in a small furnace and used it to create blown glass sculptures.

We’ve come such a long way in such a short time. The history of contemporary glass art may be brief, but it has no shortage of heroes and game-changers. Here are some of the most important glass sculptures of the past 55 years that have helped shape the course of modern art history in the making.

  • Lino Tagliapietra’s Saturno
    Italian-born and -educated Tagliapetra first developed his signature “Saturn” style while working for La Murrina, a glass shop, in the 1960s. Many contemporary artists have him to thank for developing modern glassblowing techniques that have shaped glass sculptures through the ages.
  • Dale Chihuly’s Seaform Series
    Chihuly studied under Harvey Littleton at the University of Madison-Wisconsin while earning a Master of Science degree in sculpture. He’s known for his massive works of colorful and extremely delicate parts that seem to defy gravity and nature in an age where pure silica, or fused quartz, makes up 70 to 74% of the weight of modern glass.
  • Karen LaMonte’s Vestige
    Karen LaMonte, 48, is an American-born artist known best for her life-size sculptures of free-floating dresses, cast in glass, bronze, or ceramic. While she’s also known for her large scale monotype prints, the Vestige was her first monumental piece, which took more than a year to create.
  • Niyoko Ikuta’s Free Essence-6
    This young Japanese artist has received much critical acclaim ever since she first began exhibiting in the early 1980s. Her “Free Essence” series captures her layered glass style, which appears both light and surreal. According to the artist, “my motifs are derived from feelings of gentleness and harshness, fear, limitless expansion experienced through contact with nature, images from music, ethnic conflict, the heart affected by joy and anger, and prayer.”

The future of glass sculpture is yet to be determined, but if the tradition continues as it has over the past half-century, we’ll be sure to witness exciting new advancements and expressions for years to come.