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Chihuly at RISD

Chihuly at RISD
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On September 27, Rhode Island School of Design celebrates the grand opening of its new $34 million Chace Center with a day of performances, music, and special exhibitions. The Chace Center, named in honor of Happy and Malcolm Chace by RISD trustee Jane Chace Carroll and her siblings, Malcom G. Chace and Eliot Chace, is the grand front entry the venerable Providence art school has never really had.

Designed by famed Spanish architect Jose Rafael Moneo, the Chace Center is a complex, LEED certified, five-story, 43,000 square foot infill building constructed on the site of a former parking lot and connecting and uniting several other historic college buildings. The first floor of the Chace Center houses the risd/works gallery and Michael P. Metcalf Auditorium. The second floor is devoted to the Gelman Student Exhibitions Gallery and Dryfoos Student Media Gallery. A 4,000 square foot special exhibitions gallery occupies the third floor and is connected to the RISD Museum via a new glassed-in Museum Associates Bridge. The Minsky Center for Prints, Drawings and Photographs is on the forth floor. And the fifth floor will house new studio space for the first year Foundations Studies program.

Fittingly, the inaugural exhibition in the new Chace Center special exhibitions gallery is a lavish installation by one of RISD’s most illustrious alumni, internationally renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. Chihuly received his MFA in ceramics at RISD in 1968 after having previously studied at the University of Wisconsin with legendary glass artist Harvey Littleton. The following year, he helped establish the glass major at RISD and taught in the program on and off until the 1980s. In 1971, Chihuly, a native of Tacoma, Washington, co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School outside Seattle and served as its artistic director until 1989.

Chihuly at RISD (through January 2009) will feature some 2,500 pieces of art glass created by the flamboyant godfather of the American art glass movement. A protean force of art and nature, Chihuly made a name for himself in the 1970s with relatively modest and monochrome vessels, but he blossomed as the maestro of the molten in the 1980s with the introduction of wild, exuberant colors and free flowing sculptural forms. Many of his recent projects have resembled nothing quite so much as glass gardens, both terrestrial and submarine. In constantly pushing the aesthetic boundaries beyond decoration, Dale Chihuly liberated art glass from its reputation as “eye candy,” turning it into an elegant and evocative medium of expression in its own right.

The new Chace Center could not have a more sparkling send off than Chihuly at RISD. To complement the Chihuly show, the RISD Museum has also organized a group show of works by nine of Chihuly’s former RISD students entitled Under the Influence and After You’re Gone, a counterpoint exhibition by glass artist Beth Lipman.

Chace Center, RISD Museum, 20 N. Main St., Providence, RI, 401-454-6500.

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

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One Response to Chihuly at RISD

  1. Ed Beem September 14, 2008 at 9:30 am #

    Apparently, the “eye candy” indictment of art glass has not gone gone away. In reviewing “Chilhuly at the deYoung” in July, San Francisco Chronicle art critic Kenneth Baker wrote that “The history of art is a history of ideas, not just of valuable property. Chihuly has no place in it, and the de Young disservices its public by pretending that he does.” Baker’s scathing review, entitled “A Shiny Spectacle Devoid of Brilliance,” “polarized reader response as nothing else I have written for the Chronicle ever has,” according to a defense of his dismissal of Chihuly that Baker subsequently wrote. Baker is half right. The history of art is not just a history of ideas; it is a search of meaning — and meaning resides as much in things of the spirit and things of the senses as it does in the life of the mind.

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