Renwick Gallery Presents New Glass Now

By Editorial Team on October 19, 2021
Deborah Czeresko, Meat Chandelier, 2018, blown glass, metal armature, 96.06″H x 59.84″W x 59.84″D, The Corning Museum of Glass, 2019.4.165; Photo by The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York.
Opening: Thursday, October 21 at 6:30 pm

The exhibition New Glass Now offers a global survey highlighting the innovation shown by a dynamic selection of makers. Embracing the possibilities of glass as a vital and versatile medium, the featured artists challenge the status quo and represent a modern era in glassmaking full of new voices, visions and representation.

On view at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum from Oct. 22 to March 6, 2022, New Glass Now features a range of objects, installations, videos and performances by 50 artists working in more than 23 countries. It highlights historically underrepresented communities within the glass world including LGBTQ+ artists, people of color and women. These makers respond to the complexities of the contemporary world through timely political commentary and explorations of the intersection between technology and creative culture. Their work challenges the very notion of what the material of glass is and what it can do.

“We are pleased to present such a fresh and representative survey of contemporary glass art at the Renwick Gallery, which coincides with an exhibition in the museum’s main building that features objects from the Venetian glass revival of the late 19th century,” said Stephanie Stebich, the Margaret and Terry Stent Director at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “New Glass Now introduces our national and international visitors to global leaders in the glass field who are working in innovative and unexpected ways. This exhibition affirms our commitment at the Renwick Gallery to celebrating the ever-changing and evolving landscape of contemporary craft.”

New Glass Now is a touring exhibition that debuted at The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, in 2019. It was curated by Aric Chen, general and artistic director of Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam; Beth Lipman, artist based in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin; Susanne Jøker Johnsen, head of exhibitions at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen; and Susie J. Silbert, curator of postwar and contemporary glass at The Corning Museum of Glass. Mary Savig, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, is the coordinating curator for the New Glass Now presentation at the Renwick Gallery.

New Glass Now is the third iteration of the landmark exhibition series from The Corning Museum of Glass. The two prior exhibitions, Glass 1959 and New Glass: A Worldwide Survey in 1979, catalyzed major changes in the field. New Glass: A Worldwide Survey was shown at the Renwick Gallery in 1980. To complement the current presentation of the global survey, the museum is presenting an installation titled New Glass Then that will be on view concurrently at the Renwick. It features works from the permanent collection by artists included in the 1980 presentation of New Glass, including Paula Bartron, Dale Chihuly, Dominick Labino and Karla Trinkley.

“With its perceived transparency and delicacy, glass is an expressive medium for storytelling,” Savig said. “The artworks on view in New Glass Now will spark new conversations about the function and materiality of glass, its relevance in contemporary culture and even its political potential.”

New Glass Now at the Renwick Gallery features American artists, including James Akers, whose unruly assemblages of neon lights and hacked circuit-bent toys elicit a sensory overload that is in tune with the current technology-driven times; Deborah Czeresko, whose feminist take on traditional Venetian chandeliers features impeccably sculpted cuts of meat in place of the form’s typical flowered frills, a humorous and subversive critique of the male-dominated arena of the glassblowing shop; and Bohyun Yoon, whose spinning mass of cast glass projects a human silhouette onto the gallery wall. As it turns, the projected face transforms from the artist’s profile to his wife’s, to his child’s and back again. Surrounded by subtly shifting refracting rainbows, the piece evokes wonder at the materiality of glass, the immateriality of light and the mystery of family connections.

International artists featured in the exhibition include Tamás Ábel (Hungary), whose simple and direct performance piece Colour Therapy is a powerful statement of LGBTQ+ presence. Ábel uses a fabricated glass mirror to reflect the rainbow flag onto the Millennium Monument in his hometown of Budapest and the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.; Andrea de Ponte (Argentina), who through her use of image transfer, specifically of historical maps on blown glass, creates a constrained globe that reminds people of how their expansionist relationship with geography and the planet often strains a more finite reality; and James Magagula (Kingdom of eSwatini), one of the head glassblowers at Ngwenya Glass in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), who uses craftsmanship and recycled glass to tell folkloric tales in his piece depicting a herd of cattle, a symbol of wealth in southern Africa.

Free Public Programs 
A series of free virtual and in-person programs are offered relating to “New Glass Now.” The museum will host an in-person open house Thursday, Oct. 21, at 6:30 p.m. ET at the Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W.) offering the public the opportunity to preview the exhibition. Registration for this event is required. Mask use will be enforced, and social distancing is encouraged.

On Thursday, Nov. 4, 7 p.m. ET, a virtual program will feature Savig and artist Czeresko as they discuss how Venetian glass techniques from the 19th century are translated and reimagined in glasswork today. This program complements the exhibition “Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass” on view at the museum’s main building. On Friday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. ET, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and The Corning Museum of Glass will partner to host a virtual studio visit and glassmaking demonstration from the Corning Museum’s Amphitheater Hot Shop with artist Megan Stelljes. Finally, in March 2022, artists Suzanne Peck and Karen Donnellan, creators of “Exhale with Vigor,” discuss gender and sexuality equity within the field of glassblowing in a virtual conversation. Information about speakers and registration for these programs will be available on the museum’s website as details are confirmed.

Planning a Visit
The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum is open with a reduced weekly schedule and health and safety measures in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors are advised to consult the museum’s website for up-to-date guidance about current policies, operating hours and requirements for face coverings.