Exhibit of Chihuly’s glass art impresses audiences

By ANNE HOLLMULLER | October 26, 2017


STEVE JURVETSON/CC BY 2.0 Artist Dale Chihuly is well known for his work in the glass medium and is featured at the NYBG.

This week marks the final week of CHIHULY, an exhibition of artworks by well-known glass artist Dale Chihuly at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in his first garden exhibition in New York City in over a decade.

The exhibition includes 20 installations interspersed throughout the conservatory and gardens, with a series of evening events called CHIHULY Nights.

During these evening events, the exhibition was illuminated, live musicians performed throughout the gardens and al fresco food was offered by food trucks.

Dale Chihuly is an American glass sculptor and artist, best known for his large-scale sculptures in blown glass. Glass forms are the primary medium for his work, allowing him to manipulate the luminous and translucent qualities of glass as it interacts with light.

Known for his site-specific installations in public spaces as well as exhibitions presented at gardens and museums across the world, Chihuly works with a studio of glass blowers and directs the creation and manufacturing of his monumental works.

The works included in CHIHULY were created specifically for the NYBG and were conceived as a site-specific installation, which took advantage of the natural environment of the Garden.

Chihuly’s brightly colored sculptures were intermingled with the verdant surroundings of the NYBG and its wide-ranging collection. At night, with the help of carefully placed spotlights, visitors were able to revisit these translucent, sometimes monumental works and explore a new interaction between light and color.

The CHIHULY Nights programming series began in the spring with the opening of the exhibit, offering an opportunity to view the sculptures at night, listen to live music and partake in various food and drink offerings. The botanical garden engaged a rotating line-up of musicians and performing artists of different genres, including jazz, classical guitar, Latin soul and steel drum.

On Oct. 20, musicians Funkrust Brass Band, Christos Rafalides and Yael Acher (also known as “KAT” Modiano) performed across the garden, with Rafalides and his keyboard positioned near one of the largest of Chihuly’s sculptures, the massive Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower.

Several of the sculptures are contained within the vast space of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, a Victorian glasshouse with a towering central cupola.

The graceful forms of the vibrantly colored sculptures, lit by spotlights, echo the sloping curves and angles of the flowers and plants that surround them underneath the dome of the conservatory.

Viewing the sculptures in the evening light allowed them to take on a dramatic and romantic form, dazzlingly colorful glass gleaming in the midst of the greenery.

Outside of the entrance to the greenhouse is Sol del Citron, a large orb of green and yellow glass shapes and forms illuminated by spotlights. Many visitors gathered around this first sculpture to capture their first images of the night, pause for a drink at the nearby beverage cart or discuss the exhibition amongst themselves.

One particularly interesting work was Red Reeds on Logs, which features several dozen red reeds pierced through large logs standing upright in the midst of a circular pool.

Another one of the works included is a recreation of his noted 1975 Artpark installation, which is revived in the form of three new works in the Native Plant Garden and the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory Courtyard’s Tropical Pool, though it was somewhat difficult to appreciate the reflective qualities of the sculptures in the relative darkness of the Native Plant Garden.

I happened to miss one work, a diaphanous blue sculpture entitled Sapphire Star, that was hidden in a more secluded area of the gardens.

Within the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, an exhibition of early works by Chihuly is on display, as well as some of his drawings and sketches.

Because Chihuly directs a studio of skilled glassblowers, drawing on paper is a means of sharing his ideas with the members of his team. A 1977 work, Fire Orange Baskets, features forms developed during the period in which he was inspired by Northwest Native American baskets. Also on display are two acrylic paintings, including Palazzo Ducale Tower, from the Chihuly Over Venice exhibition of 1996.

Chihuly previously collaborated with the New York Botanical Garden for a 2006 exhibition entitled Chihuly at the New York Botanical Garden, his first major exhibition in the New York City area. Record audiences were attracted to the botanical garden.

The largest permanent exhibit of Chihuly’s works can be found at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. There is also a Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit at the Seattle Center, opened in May of 2012, which includes a 100-foot long sculpture, one of Chihuly’s largest works.

Tickets were in high demand for the CHIHULY Nights, with a line of people waiting to enter the greenhouse and many visitors pausing to take photographs both in the greenhouse and across the grounds. Visitors took advantage of their final opportunity to see this exposition; CHIHULY closes on Oct. 29, 2017.

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