Blowing Sweet and Hot

New exhibition opens Saturday to explore studio-glass art from its mid-century birth
Dale Chihuly’s ‘Macchia Sea Form’ (1984).
(photo: courtesy Crocker Art Museum)

Thanks to glass sculptor Dale Chihuly’s bold forms, every fan of design understands what a skilled artist can do with a pipe and a furnace. Sixty years ago, though, who knew?

‘Red, Hot and Blown: Contemporary Art from the Crocker’s Collection,’ a new Northern California exhibition opening this weekend, will take viewers back to 1962, when artist Harvey Littleton, working with researcher Dominick Labino and an innovative, small furnace, created the studio-glass movement through workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art.

“It was part of the whole resurrection of the crafts movement that began in the 1950s,” says Scott Shields, chief curator of Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum, which is hosting the exhibit. The Crocker showcase features 25 pieces and runs March 17 to September 23 at 216 ‘O’ Street.

Three works in the show are by the Bay Area studio-glass pioneer Marvin Lipofsky. “His work is really, really amazingly beautiful,” Shields says.

Among later generation artists in the show is Toots Zynsky, whose pieces, Shields says, are “almost fibrous, basket forms, glass threads pressed together.”

About contemporary glass art, Shields says: “It’s as diverse as humanity itself, practically.”

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