Japanese Glass Art Exhibit Showcases Intriguing Creations

Article excerpt

With all that is happening with "Pittsburgh Celebrates Glass!" there's been a lot of talk about the American studio glass movement lately. But a quiet little exhibition on display at the Pittsburgh Glass Center in Friendship that is part of the celebration hints that the glass movement is a global phenomenon, particularly as it relates to Japan.

Since the launch of the Studio Glass Movement in the United States 30 years ago, there now exist more than 25 schools offering glass programs in Japan. Thus, today there are glass artists working all over that country.

"Allure of Japanese Glass" presents works by 17 established and emerging Japanese glass artists who work in a full range of glass art methods and techniques.

Organized by Harumi Yukutake, a glass artist from Tokyo, and Tomoko Aoki, a curator from Kyoto, the exhibition represents the American premier of most of these artists' works.

Chosen for their originality, promise and skill of execution, the 17 artists whose works are on view are not widely known on the international scene. Their works reflect two directions in the current trend in glass, functional art and non-functional art, and range from most recent works to utilitarian wares.

In her statement, Yukutake writes: "Even though there are differences in use and circumstance, the selected artists' work shows appreciation to meticulous craftsmanship and worship of material which is where the Japanese 'art' aesthetic stemmed from. Learning the existing practices and ideas in glass, these artists have built their own styles beyond and stretch the material's allure."

By far the best example of the latter is the work of Yoshiaki Kojiro, of Chiba, whose kiln-formed piece "incidents" is an example of a technique the artist invented, in which he is able to create tiny air bubbles in molten glass while it's in the kiln. It looks like a large chunk of white ice that has cracked away from an iceberg.

"If this were actually a totally solid piece of cast glass, it would weigh a ton," says Heather McElwee, the Glass Center's director of education and exhibitions.

McElwee says that during the creation of his pieces, Kojiro injects a chemical into the glass that creates a reaction much like a baking soda and vinegar volcano. As the pieces cool, they make interesting fragmented formations like that seen here. It's a piece that is not only beautiful but speaks a lot about process, something the artist's work is closely tied to.

Kojiro is not the only artist to revel in the process of glass making.

"Hollow Pieces" is an installation by Ken-ichi Sasakawa, of Ishikawa, that is comprised of 100 wooden boxes, each filled with 10 blown and etched bottles, arranged in a pyramid formation on the floor of the gallery. …