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CMOG: survey of pioneering artist“s work

The Corning Museum of Glass will present an unprecedented survey of work by the groundbreaking female artist Toots Zynsky. A pioneer of the studio glass movement, Zynsky draws from the traditions of p…

The Corning Museum of Glass will present an unprecedented survey of work by the groundbreaking female artist Toots Zynsky. A pioneer of the studio glass movement, Zynsky draws from the traditions of painting, sculpture and the decorative arts to inspire her innovative, intricate vessels. The exhibition, Masters of Studio Glass: Toots Zynsky, will feature 12 works representing the varied techniques and inspirations from throughout Zynsky“s career, and will be on view at The Corning Museum of Glass from 2 April 2011, through 29 January 2012. Zynsky attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she was one of acclaimed artist Dale Chihuly“s first students. In 1971, she was part of a group of Chihuly“s friends and RISD students who founded the influential Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State. There, she made installations of slumped plate glass, and later experimented with video and performance work with artist Buster Simpson, incorporating hot and cold glass. This experimental work was critical to the development of using glass as a material to explore issues in contemporary art. The exhibition is part of the Corning Museum“s ongoing Masters of Studio Glass series that was developed to provide a platform for in-depth surveys of a range of artists represented in the Museum“s permanent collection. Masters of Studio Glass: Toots Zynsky will also feature seminal works commissioned by the Museum in 1988 as part of its annual Rakow Commission, and an unusually large vessel commissioned in 2005 by Chicago collectors, and Corning Museum benefactors, Ben and Natalie Heineman. Zynsky has made a life“s work of studying and manipulating coloured glass threads through the vehicle of her distinctive, undulating forms, says Tina Oldknow, curator of modern glass at the Museum. She is one of a small, core group of pioneering artists who made contemporary glass a worldwide phenomenon, and her distinctive kiln-formed vessels enjoy widespread popularity for their often magnificent, and always unique, explorations in colour. Mary Ann Toots Zynsky was born in 1951. She received her bachelor of fine arts at RISD in 1973. In 1980, she became assistant director and head of the hot shop at the New York Experimental Glass Workshop in New York City, which is now called UrbanGlass. At the Experimental Glass Workshop, she brought together her interests in diverse materials, focusing on glass and barbed wire. During this time she began to make her unique spun glass“ vessels, such as the Corning Museum“s pieces titled Promises and Other Misinformation (1981) and Waterspout No. 13 (conceived in 1979 and made in 1994). By 1982, Zynsky was working on pieces combining fused nets of glass threads with blown forms. The Museum“s vessel, Clipped Grass, was one of the first objects made solely of fused glass threads by Zynsky. She gave a name to the new technique that she developed, calling it filet de verre“, or layers of glass threads that are fused and hot-formed inside of a kiln. Between 1983 and 1999, Zynsky lived and worked in Europe, and in 1984, she was invited to make designs in blown glass for the famous Venini glassworks on Murano. Her work for Venini resulted in the unusual Folto vases in contrasting colours, two of which are included in the Museum“s collection. In 1988, the Corning Museum awarded Zynsky its annual Rakow Commission. The two vessels that she made for the Commission demonstrate her strong palette, influenced by African textiles, and her skillful manipulation of the glass vessels while hot. Zynsky“s most recent work is represented in the Museum“s collection by Incantatrice, or sorceress“, which reflects a transformation in her colour palette, focusing on strong neutrals, such as black, red, and amber rather than the variegated colour palette she used for much of her career. To make her vessels, Zynsky first layers thousands of multicoloured glass threads onto a round heat-resistant fiberboard plate. For her, this part of the process is like drawing or painting. This mass of glass threads is then fused inside a kiln. While hot, the fused thread disk is allowed to slowly slump into a series of consecutively deeper and rounder preheated bowl-shaped metal forms. To make taller vessels, the piece is turned upside down and slumped over a cone-shaped mould. Finally, Zynsky reaches into the kiln, wearing special heat-resistant gloves, and she squeezes the glass into a unique undulating form. Zynsky“s glass vessels are represented in more than 70 international museum collections.

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