Chihuly glass shines at KIA

Within the darkened galleries of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, magnificent glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly make a dramatic and impressive statement.

"It's gorgeous," said KIA director Jim Bridenstine of the "Chihuly in Kalamazoo" exhibition designed exclusively for the institute.

More than three years in the making, it contains hundreds of the artist's large and small-scale glass pieces massed throughout the museum and is the largest event in the KIA's history. It occupies more space than any previous temporary exhibition.

Organizers are excited. A 2003 exhibit of Chihuly's works at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park remains its most popular temporary exhibit.

Chihuly has been a leader in the glass movement since the 1960s, transforming blown glass from an art craft into sculpture. His work is characterized by large, organic forms in a striking palette of colors. Inspired by images from the natural world, he has always tested the physical limits of glass.

In Kalamazoo, Chihuly's team has put together an innovative exhibition of striking color combinations that utilize the KIA's unique space. Along with seaforms and nature-inspired shapes, visitors also will find baskets, Macchia vessels, Persian wavy lined and curved edged forms, flutes, reeds and sconces. They have been put together to form chandeliers, towers and gardens.

A "Mille Fiori" is a green garden of flues, pods, feathers, reeds and seagrass. A boat installation, inspired by Chihuly's work on the Nutajoki River in Finland, is a magnificent and glowing arrangement of a myriad of red forms falling over the side of a boat.

"Macchia Forest" is a colorful assemblage of multicolored vessels that seem to glow from within.

A gleaming tower of blue glass takes center stage in the KIA Lobby Gallery, complementing the permanent orange and yellow chandelier at the South Street entrance. A Persian Ceiling is a passageway into a room of vessels and flowers, lit from within, each poised on its separate pedestal.

Created especially for the courtyard is a blanket of red "Spears" sprouting out of a large square grate, while on the lower level, a separate sculptural piece of figures, vessels and fish adorns each gallery in the permanent collection, ending with a split yellow chandelier of "Mexican Hats" complementing the deep red walls.

Born in 1941 in Tacoma, Wash., Chihuly was introduced to glass while studying interior design at the University of Washington, taking further studies at the University of Wisconsin. With a Louis Comfort Foundation grant and Fulbright Fellowship in 1968, he worked with master craftsmen in Murano, Italy, famed for the Venice glass industry. There, he observed the team approach to glassblowing, which he applied to the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington, established in 1971. Now, he directs teams of artisans in the creation of large and diverse bodies of work.

Chihuly's work is collected worldwide and is part of permanent collections in more than 200 museums around the world. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including seven honorary doctorates and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

600450 Chihuly glass shines at KIA

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