I went to the San Francisco De Young museum last Sunday (September 21, 1008) to see the exhibit, Chihuly at the De Young – http://www.chihulyatthedeyoung.org/.
There are critics who hate Chihuly’s work. They think it’s bereft of ideas. It’s decorative, overblown, and “beautiful” without saying anything.
I think Chihuly’s work is beautiful – yes. His installations put you in another world. There’s a lot of it – form, color, texture, imagery, light reflecting, all that. Unlike some of his critics, I find them to be full of emotional resonance, and I also think there is more to them than simple beauty.
To start with, I’m not sure that Chihuly categorizes his work as “art” and not “art”. I think he knows the difference between a decorative work and a work of art (if you can even use such a term), but it’s not a dialogue he chooses to engage in. So, he’ll do an art object that is, for want of a better word, “decorative”. He’ll make an object that complements a room. It’s decorative, for ornamentation. Then, he’ll take that same object and change it. He’ll change the scale, add to it, and mass it. He’ll put a hundred of them together. Sometimes he’ll put them in a landscape. The objects are transformed.
I think his chandeliers are examples of this – are they animate, inanimate, flowers, snakes? There’s also this weird Baroque sensibility going on. When he hangs them outside, over the canals in Venice – you ask yourself – what are they? Are they Venetian crafts, are they plants, are they snakes, are they constructed, what is it?
In some works – such as the room with what looks like large glass reeds – he pares it down. The reeds are huge, and glowing, but fairly simple. He takes a landscape full of repetition – the reeds – and he changes it. He adds light, color, and he blows it up – the reeds are huge. I think he plays on what it means to be a landscape. It’s familiar and unsettling at the same time.
He plays with size and scale. One of my favorite rooms was a room which had two boats – one with glass balls, and one with what looked like flower/plant things, all in boats. What’s really interesting was the scale. The glass balls in the boats appear to be so much bigger than the organic looking things in the other boat.
I think Chihuly’s work deals with 2 things
– what does it mean to be organic
– what does it mean to be a landscape
He also play with design. He likes design. I like it too – I like seeing a color, a pattern get transformed – in his 2D drawings, the Indian baskets and blankets he collects, and the glass that he does, as influenced by the baskets and the blankets.
I think he’s also not afraid of referencing something domestic and pretty, like a family garden. In the last room of a show, he makes a garden.
It’s also bravura work, but there’s bravura work out there, even in contemporary art land – I’ll leave it to the reader to come up with examples! Bravura is fine with me.
I loved the show, and it belongs here – it felt like home.
Floats and Flowers – in Boats
Closeup of the the Garden Room
amarez – mszv