From Venice to Boca Raton: 2021 U.S. debut of Glasstress

debut of Glasstress

Ai Weiwei at the Berengo studio in Venice, next to his glass sculpture ‘Blossom Chandelier.’ Photo by Karolina Sobel

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Some of the world’s leading contemporary artists were invited to breathe new life into centuries-old glassmaking in Venice, Italy for the 2021 edition of Glasstrees, which will be on view at the Boca Raton Museum of Art through Sept. 5.

Among the  34 artists working with the maestros of glassblowing at the legendary Berengo Studio were Ai Weiwei, Fred Wilson, Joyce J. Scott, Jimmie Durham, Ugo Rondinone, Fiona Banner, Vik Muniz, Monica Bonvicini, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Laure Prouvost, Renate Bertlmann, Thomas Schütte, Loris Gréaud, and Erwin Wurm.

Most of these works in glass have never been seen elsewhere and were handpicked by Kathleen Goncharov, the museum’s senior curator who traveled to Italy in 2019.

The 34 artists in this edition of Glasstress were invited by Adriano Berengo to work alongside his master glass artisans at the Berengo Studio on the island of Murano in the Venetian lagoon. With incredible energy, the studio has brought a new vision on how to stimulate today’s leading artists into thinking how the medium of glass can be made into dramatic and provocative works of contemporary art. Most of these artists have, during their careers, been invited to participate in the Venice Biennale. Some of the works were completed during the pandemic lockdowns, with artists collaborating remotely via Zoom with their glass artisan partners after their initial on-site work at the studio in Venice.

“Unlike the past and the present, what comes next for our world presents itself as a constant possibility, always transforming as we move forward in time,” said Berengo. “This concept of transformation has always held an affinity with glass, a medium which – as the name Glasstress suggests – exists in a state of constant tension. Life needs tension, it needs energy and a vibrant exchange of ideas.”

The exhibition presents 34 new works that explore some of today’s pressing subjects, including human rights, climate change, racial justice, gender issues and politics. The Boca Raton Museum of Art has dedicated more than 6,500 square feet of exhibition space to this collection. A fully illustrated catalog is also available.

Ugo Rondinone represented his home country in the Swiss Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007).
In this Glasstrees work, 12 glass horses are cast in beautiful shades of blue, all facing different directions, creating delicate light games with their reflections and shadows in continuous motion.  In the context of this installation, the reappearing motif of a horse (which has a long tradition in the history of art), evokes alienation and a subversive twist emblematic of Rondinone’s works.

debut of Glasstress

Ugo Rondinone, detail of ‘an ocean away’ (2017). Image courtesy of the Boca Raton Museum of Art

The mission of Glasstress is to restore the visibility and reputation of Murano glass, after decades of closures of ancient, centuries-old glass furnaces. Instead of creating decorative objects with glass, these artists are invited to create original works, often on a massive scale. They collaborate with glass masters whose expertise has been developed over generations in Venice. Most of these artists have never worked with glass, so they unite their artistic ideas with the technical expertise of their skilled collaborators.

“We have brought Glasstress to countries around the world for ten years, seeking to expand and enliven international awareness of the variety and richness of contemporary artists using glass in their creative practices,” adds Adriano Berengo. “In the past, its place in the art world might have seemed uncertain. But now in this latest edition of Glasstress, the first after a global pandemic, one thing we know for certain: glass endures. Life is fragile, just as glass is fragile, yet in this fragility there is also strength.”  It is in this spirit of experimentation that Glasstress Boca Raton 2021 explores the limitless potential of glassblowing.

“We realize how far we have come as we approach the 60th anniversary of the American studio glass movement that launched in 1962 through the efforts of Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino,” adds Irvin Lippman. “This presentation of Glasstress is also a tribute to them.”