20th Century Studio Glass Movement Celebrated

The Toledo Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, presents Contemporary Directions: Glass from the Maxine and William Block Collection.

This exhibition presents a unique introduction to contemporary studio glass. Opening Friday, November 21, this exhibition celebrates the growth of the studio glass movement, as well as the generosity of two noted collectors.

Thanks to a decade of collecting late 20th-century studio glass, the Blocks have a collection of more than 180 pieces by more than 110 artists. No artist is represented more than three times in their collection. Contemporary Directions: Glass from the Maxine and William Block Collection is a selection of 62 works by 49 artists from their larger collection.

The Blocks began their collection of glass works of art when they purchased a few pieces of studio glass in 1988 to fill an étagère in their new Toledo residence. They chose glass because of Toledo’s long and noteworthy connection with glass and the glass industry. Known widely as the “Glass Capital of the World,” Toledo has been home to many giants of the glass industry, including Libbey Glass, Owens-Illinois, Owens Corning and Libbey-Owens-Ford. In addition, Pittsburgh, home to the Blocks’ other business interests, also has a close connection to glass. The studio glass movement in the United States was born in workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art in 1962 under the direction of ceramist Harvey Littleton. Producing talented artists who worked in glass such as Dominick Labino, glass went from the factory into a studio environment and became a medium for contemporary art.

In their initial glass collection, the Blocks chose works of art based on a passion for the particular piece of art. “It is a gut reaction that just hits us,” said Bill Block. Indeed, the Blocks’ collection is one driven by their emotional response to the work. Initially, they were drawn to works that reflected light. As they expanded their knowledge and interests, content and ideas played a larger role in their collection; however, color remains critically important to them.

Glass artists, like those in any other art medium, are affected by the culture that surrounds them. With studio glass entering its fifth decade in the United States, works of art in glass explore the relationships of form, mass, proportion, and color. The works also explore forms, ideas, techniques, theatricality and even humor and whimsy.

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