Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fluent Steps

Ambitious new installation in Museum of Glass reflective pool

reprinted from the Weekly Volcano
pictured: Martin Blank crew at work on "Fluent Steps" - photo by Stephen Vest, courtesy of Martin Blank Studios.

Water, water everywhere, and much of it made of glass.

Glass artist Martin Blank has been working for four years on a massive installation in the reflecting pool on the plaza at Museum of Glass — mostly working in the museum Hot Shop and his studio, but more lately it’s been a beehive of activity onsite.

I spoke to the artist last week while he and his crew were installing the new sculpture called "Fluent Steps." He was ecstatic about the work, and justifiably so. It’s a huge project. Consider this:

* There are 71,000 pounds of molten glass in the 754 individually hand-sculpted pieces
* The installation required a team of 41 artists, engineers and architects
* The finished work is 207 feet in length

Blank said viewers can “observe, interact and respond to the emotive nature of water,” explaining that “water is the vehicle for capturing light, motion, fluidity and transparency.”

The 754 glass sculptures rise from the water like mists, steam and spray. They twist and curl like flowers and sea grasses, and when completed they will reflect clouds and shimmer in sunlight with illusory movement. (The mention of grasses and flowers is my interpretation. Blank spoke of these forms as representing the fluid and undulating movement water and steam, but did acknowledge that the forms are open to interpretation. Plus he indicated there is supposed to be huge fallen madrona tree, which was not yet installed. At least I think it was a madrona; he was talking fast, and I was caught up in the moment and not taking notes.)

All of the glass sculptures are clear and transparent with here and there a hint of color, and they fill the reflecting pool not randomly but in clearly defined patterns that reflect the natural swirling movement of water. Tower-like they cluster in an area near the museum entrance and then spread out and diminish in height as they flow throughout the pool.

The public opening is scheduled for April 18, but at the time this was written they expected to have it completed now.

Inside the museum you can see "White Light: Glass Compositions by Daniel Clayman" and "Contrasts: A Glass Primer," two long-running exhibitions that are worthy of a repeat visit. Clayman’s large, minimalist glass sculptures are quite impressive, and "Contrasts" is a visual object lesson in the medium of glass and the many ideas, techniques, and styles of glass art.

In addition to the installation at the museum, Martin Blank is one of three featured artists in overnight package deals at Hotel Murano where each floor of the hotel is devoted to displaying works of an individual artist. The other featured artists are Flo Perkins and Preston Singletary. Included in the packages, in addition to the overnight stay in the hotel, are unlimited in-and-out valet parking and a limited edition digital scrapbook of the artist’s work. Packages start at $189. For booking and information call 253.591.4123.

And as if all that were not enough, there will be a Martin Blank exhibition at Traver Gallery, adjacent to MOG, through May 10.

[Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St. Tacoma, 866.4MUSEUM]
[William Traver Gallery, through May 10, 1821 East Dock St., Tacoma, 253.383.3685]

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