Published: December 6, 2011
In 1962, two groundbreaking workshops led by artist Harvey K. Littleton and glass scientist Dominick Labino introduced artists to the material of glass as a medium for artistic expression.
Littleton and Labino presented their development of a small, portable furnace and low temperature melting-point glass, providing artists access to glass and glassblowing techniques for the first time. These Toledo, Ohio, workshops kick-started the American Studio Glass movement, which emphasized the artist as designer and maker, with a focus on making one-of-a-kind objects.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the American Studio Glass movement, The Corning Museum of Glass presents two exhibitions. “Founders of American Studio Glass: Harvey K. Littleton” features works by the artist, spanning the arc of his career from his very first works in glass from the 1940s through his experiments with form and color into the 1980s.
A complementary show, “Founders of American Studio Glass: Dominick Labino,” presents materials from Labino’s archives, which are held in the collection of the Museum’s Rakow Research Library. Both exhibitions are on view through January 6, 2013.
“Although their technical skills were limited, the visionary approach that Littleton and Labino brought to their 1962 workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art served to introduce artists to the use of hot glass as a material for contemporary art,” says Tina Oldknow, curator of modern glass at the Corning museum.
“With Littleton’s active encouragement and promotion, glass programs sprang up at universities, art schools and summer programs across the country during the late 1960s and early 1970s; and the Studio Glass movement became an international phenomenon. What began 50 years ago as a small group of artists who shared an interest in glass as an artistic material has grown into an international community of thousands.”
The museum has been collecting Littleton’s work since the mid 1960s, both through acquisitions and donations, including those from Littleton and his family. “Founders” includes 19 vessels and sculptures and five vitreographs drawn from the museum’s collection and the artist’s personal collection.
The earliest objects in the Littleton exhibition are two experimental cast female torsos, dating to 1942 and 1946, which are the first works in glass made by Littleton while working at Corning Glass Works. Also featured are glass vessels from the early 1960s, dating to the years just after the seminal Toledo workshops, as well as a bottle made at the 1962 workshops, a recent gift to the museum from the Littleton family.
At the end of the 1960s, Littleton reevaluated his work, making the decision to turn away from the vessel in favor of sculptural work based on a vocabulary of geometric forms. The exploration of columns and tubes, color and motion in glass occupied him for the rest of his career.
The exhibition on Labino will explore his impact on glass technology, education and art. Labino was a prolific inventor and research scientist, holding more than 60 patents in the United States over his lifetime. Three of his developments for glass fibers, having to do with insulation against extremes in temperatures, were used in the Apollo spacecraft.
The year after the Toledo workshops, Labino also began to work with hot glass as an artistic medium. Setting up a studio on his farm near Grand Rapids, Ohio, he designed and built his own furnaces, annealing ovens, glassblowing tools and finishing equipment and created a laboratory for testing the properties of glass. He formulated his own glass compositions, achieving rich and unusual colors that he used in his work.The exhibition documents Labino’s legacy through a selection of letters, drawings, photographs, patents and other materials and includes Labino’s sculpture “Emergence,” created in 1980.
The museum is at One Museum Way. For information, www.cmog.org , 607-937-5371 or 800-732-6845.
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