Cover Story: Hot Glass

Art Museum Installs a Spectacular Sculpture

May 31, 2001 at 2:06 pm
Jymi Bolden

Dale Chihuly's glass sculpture is installed in the Cincinnati Art Museum lobby.

If it's not a hot summer, it'll shimmer as if it were. At least anywhere near the glittering, 1,000-pound Dale Chihuly glass sculpture, "Rio delle Torreselle," that's now suspended from the ceiling of the Cincinnati Art Museum's main entrance lobby.

Like a shining, cobalt blue Medusa, pieces of glass writhe outward, upward and downward in the best tradition of abstraction. While termed a chandelier, the piece will be lit from its exterior rather than incorporated lighting.

The pieces of glass were blown in Finland and assembled over a canal in Venice in 1995-96, taken apart and then reassembled at CAM on May 22-23. The installation could easily have qualified as a performance art, as two of Chihuly's assistants were mechanically lifted from the glass-scattered floor of the hall to a metal-pronged base upon which they carefully fastened whichever shapes they felt appropriate to the current progress of the piece. Glass that has been shaped into swirls of blue, globes bearing additional impressions, striped and curved. Every whirl of wind and sea are in there, elegantly echoing the forms of our earth.

In a small gallery just off the Great Hall, a companion exhibit of glass by Chihuly and other glass artists offers a neat catalog of possibilities and methods of working with glass. Seems this is a medium that can be manipulated with as much limitless flexibility as any other sculpture material. A look at the classic preoccupation with light in the Christopher Reis sculpture gives insight into a completely different interpretation. In addition to blowing glass forms, glass can be cut, patterned, colored, shaped and more.

A Touch of Glass has been curated from the museum's own collection and loaned from private collections.

WHO: Dale Chihuly's glass sculpture, "Rio delle Torreselle." · WHEN: All summer, Tuesday-Sunday. · WHERE: The Cincinnati Art Museum's main lobby. · TICKETS: You can walk into the lobby and see the sculpture for free. Admission to the entire museum is cheap most days ($5) and free on Saturdays. · INFO: 513-639-2984.