Museum adds impressive glass works to permanent collections

Without a lot of public fanfare but with deep gratitude, the Birmingham Museum of Art continually receives gifts and support that enables the museum to strengthen and expand its collections.

Some of these acquisitions are the result of purchases by support groups, some are private gifts from loyal supporters of the museum and others by the creative combination of several resources.

The Eighth Avenue entrance lobby is now dedicated to art glass. Dominated by the ``Persian Garden" blooms of blown glass by Dale Chihuly, the variety and quality of glass works on view is stunning.

The recent acquisition "Arcus III" by Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova was made possible by a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Corbin Day. A massive single piece of icy gray-blue semi-transparent cast glass is a pensively graceful arch. It has the grace and power of a large, living object that slumbers for the moment. The sense of contained energy becomes an ominously beautiful, somnolent force.

This is a tour-de-force piece, both technically and aesthetically. Its very scale shows an exceptional control of a medium that can be capricious before reaching its final state. The exquisite shading that moves from its opaque core to its transparent edges is both lyrical and dynamic.

The vitality and variety of contemporary art coming out of the Czech Republic is reflected by this elegant monolith. Birmingham's ambassadorial connection to this vibrant country, in the notable presence of Bill and Catherine Cabaniss, has introduced many of us to an expanding and exciting world of fascinating contemporary Czech art.

Another new contemporary art acquisition made possible by funds from the Art Fund, Inc., the Museum Ball and Mr. and Mrs. Corbin Day is David Reed's ``484." The piece is a long, narrow panel filled with billowing forms. On the extreme left, five bands of color are joined together by an overlay of bright Chinese red splashes. On the far right side, five horizontal strips contain varying patterns of smeared paint. Emerging from this pattern, a voluptuous cloud explodes, looking like whipped frosting flowing across the long central portion of the work. Elegantly primordial, the shape moves like a cloudy substance injected into space.

The title gives no hint regarding content or intent. The viewer is left to explore and discover a personal meaning. Whether one sees the work as an impressive use of color and shape or finds more subtle, emotional responses to the work, there is no question that it serves the purpose of revealing and expanding the spectator's response to visual stimulation.

James R. Nelson is visual Arts critic for The Birmingham News.

600450 Museum adds impressive glass works to permanent collections
Date: 25 July 2005

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