Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Norton’s New Exhibition a Glass Act

Beth Lipman’s installation “One & Others” never ceases to stagger. Positioned, like death itself, at the very end of the Norton’s new exhibition “Years of Glass,” Lipman’s fragile array of standing and fallen glassware spread atop a black coffin is endlessly suggestive.

The felled goblets, pineapples, rabbit, string of jewels and painter’s palette that clutter the casket can represent a shrine to the dead, or a 3D simulacrum of a still-life painting. It can conjure a destroyed cityscape, with a few spired and domed skyscrapers still standing, or some debauched royal’s spread after a sloppy bacchanalia. It is both messy and immaculate, chaotic and controlled, and in its evocative power and potential, it has few peers among this exhibition of contemporary glass art.

Which isn’t to say other works in “Years of Glass” don’t pack a visceral or cerebral punch. But with the exhibit limited mostly to a single second-floor gallery with a bit of spillover on the first, there isn’t a lot of room for more Lipmanesque blockbusters. Culled from the Norton’s own collection of glass-based or -infused artworks, in honor of the UN’s declaration of 2022 as the “year of glass,” the showcase feels like a teaser for a broader survey of its medium in 20th and 21st century art. I can’t say it didn’t leave me wanting more.

“Pyramid”

But even while confined to such a small segment of the museum, “Years of Glass” succinctly expresses the malleability and diversity of glass art, which appears in both obvious and subtle forms. Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova’s “Pyramid” stirringly plays off the primal branding of its pointed symbol and its occult meanings; a work of cast glass the color of hot magma, it radiates an intense glow. Howard Ben Tré’s “Dedicant 12” is another bewitching mystery, an ascendant totem as cryptic, in its own way, as the monochrome monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

“Female Figure: Floor Lamp”

Other highlights include Dan Dailey’s “Female Figure: Floor Lamp,” a funky Art Deco piece that feels lifted from a ‘60s television bachelor pad; Flo Perkins’ whimsical yet earthy blown-glass “Late Summer Cactus,” a pincushion-style tribute to her southwestern environs; and Therman Statom’s “The Chair,” its mix of raw wood, glass and paint suggesting a child’s unfinished idea of a throne.

“Late Summer Cactus”

On the more nuanced side of things, glass microspheres stud an abstract Mary Corse canvas of painted white and gray painted ribbons, their sparkle catching the light in ways that are inconceivable from afar. Larry Bell’s translucent pillar “Glass Cube” is, to my eyes, a sly and meta piece for the “yes, but is it really art?” files. With its shaded box on top, it resembles an empty container for a priceless work of art more so than an artwork in and of itself.

“Glass Cube”

While not officially part of “Years of Glass,” Olafur Eliasson’s “Cosmic Gaze,” hung in the Norton’s permanent European galleries, is a great way to continue the glass theme. Spectators can see themselves reflected in its dozens of planetoid glass spheres of various sizes, properly situating us—stardust that we are—among the infinitude of the universe. It’s a primo example of its medium’s transportive potential.

“Years of Glass: The Norton Collection 1982-2022” runs through Sept. 4 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1450 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach. Admission costs $15 for seniors, $18 for the general population, and $5 for students. Call 561/832-5196 or visit norton.org.


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John Thomason
As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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