Dale Chihuly - "Chihuly Illuminated."

Below is a very sedate and non-controversial review of the Dale Chihuly show at the CMA. I wrote it for the Lantern. Here are some insights I left out of it:

Sponsoring "Chihuly in Columbus" is a who's who of Columbus' large corporations - Huntington Bank, Nationwide Insurance, American Electric Power, The Columbus Dispatch, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, and others. Over five major exhibitions of his work have been held in Columbus since 1988. The Conservatory even bought a large part of his 2003 show to be a part of its permanent collection. The Conservatory, CMA and Hawk Galleries are all showing his studio's work right now. So much love because...

2. It is about nothing. Not in the Seinfeld way. It is empty aesthetics. It is ripe for corporate and institutional support because it says nothing. It is artwork for grandparents. His work is set outside of any contemporary art world considerations. It is nice looking, ornate glass. Sometimes it is neon. Sometimes his painting/sketches refer to Jackson Pollock, sometimes they refer to painting flowers. In the show his work is directly compared to Native American objects and designs. This is the rich, white, liberal, multi-cultural " I appreciate their artwork/culture/food" contempt/pillaging/appropriation/commodification/misuse of constructed authenticity, portion of the show. These white-bred conservative corporations (Dispatch: McCain in 08!) sponsoring the "remember before the genocide - their stuff looked nice" bullshit. The equation of nature in the tree with Native American life is unneeded + regressive + cynical.

Pandering to the idea of nature as inspiring. Quasi religious.

3. He has artist image branding a la Warhol + Beuys. Wacky hats and pants. Huge frizzy fro. It's just like an artist to be so unique in their personal style isn't it? That is something normals want/expect. Adds to stupid conceptions of creativity/"creatives."

4. One of the rooms shows work already shown  one mile away at the Conservatory. What?

5. Exhibition ends with a sign telling you to walk back through the exhibit to go to the lobby???

6. Dan Flavin's piece at end of show: hilarious.

7. By the way, let me emphasize that his signature on his painting/sketches takes up 1/6 to 1/4 of the picture plane and is centrally located in the bottom third of each panel. Not the lower right. It is as much of a design element as anything in any of the works - probably thee design element.

The Lantern Version.

My pre-editor review for the Lantern after "the jump."

If you haven’t been to the Columbus Museum of Art in awhile, you might be surprised.

The majority of the building and part of the sculpture garden outside are closed during a year-long renovation. The lobby has also been reconfigured with chairs and a café replacing the ticket counter. This is part of the second phase of a three-part renewal of the museum. It ends with the construction of a new wing scheduled to open in 2011.

In the mean time, not much is there. In addition to a sparse selection from the permanent collection, only one exhibit is open - “Chihuly Illuminated.” The exhibit features the artist, Dale Chihuly, whose studio specializes in blown glass.

Lisa Dent, the newly hired Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the museum, said she viewed this as a chance for something positive. 

“We knew going in that we would only have a select group of works from the permanent collection available to view in other areas. So that was something we had planned for but we were really looking at that as an opportunity to focus on Chihuly and his works,” said Dent.

Chihuly has long been associated with the museum through the exhibition of “Chihuly Over Venice” in 1998 and by his colorful chandelier that is placed prominently in the museum’s Derby Court. 

Because of his well-known status at the museum one might imagine that “Chihuly Illuminated” would be a departure from his previous Columbus exhibitions. In some ways it is – in many others it is not. 

Walking into the exhibit one is struck by how dark the rooms are. Instead of the usual white walls the room is painted a dark gray. Dent says this was Chihuly’s choice and it highlights the coloring and lighting of his pieces.

The first room shows an installation of a buzzing, neon sculpture remade from Chihuly’s work in the 1970s. This opens into a selection of pieces shown next to items that inspire Chihuly. Native American baskets are intermixed between his glass versions while colorful blankets show where his palette and design sense come from.

A wall of painted sketches that Chihuly developed after a body surfing accident left him unable to participate in glass blowing fill the next room. They are garish; bold golds and silvers mix with bright pastels. Each work features a comically large signature.

Chihuly is at his best with his chandeliers though previous work of his like this has already been thoroughly shown in Columbus. The chandeliers are composed of smaller glass sculptures wired together that have different colors, shapes and textures.

When the exhibit ends it empties into a room of work that offers insight for viewing Chihuly. Dent says this is something she values at the museum. 

“I was interested in coming here for the opportunity to show contemporary art within a historical context which I think is one of the ways that we are different from what the Wexner Center does. Simply by having it in this space we are already thinking about it and looking at it in relationship to other objects that are in the collection,” Dent said. 

“Chihuly Illuminated” is part of “Chihuly in Columbus.” This is a partnership between The Columbus Museum of Art, The Franklin Park Conservatory, and Hawk Galleries to simultaneously showcase the work of Chihuly.

The show closes July, 4th 2010.

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