Lino Tagliapietra: Wedded to Glass
October 21, 2008
When Lino Tagliapietra's wife had admired a Valentino couture gown some years back, he told her to forget about the dress: he'd make her something even better. On display in Tagliapietra's retrospective at the Renwick is Rosa Vessel, a work of blown black glass with floral murrine applications. It has a striking presence, puts any fancy little black dress to shame, and looks like it's all dressed up with somewhere to go.
The 140 objects in the exhibition Lino Tagliapietra in Retrospect: A Modern Renaissance in Glass tell stories from various times of the artist's life. Born in 1934, Tagliapietra began his life as a glassblower on the fabled island of Murano, just a vaporetto ride away from Venice. At the age of eleven he apprenticed at a major glass studio, and by the time he was twenty-one he'd attained the rank of maestro. In 1979 he traveled to the United States for the first time to teach at the new Pilchuck School of Glass near Seattle; nearly thirty years later, he continues to divide his time between Italy and the United States.
Smack in the middle of the retrospective is a piece called Endeavor, a series of boat-shaped vessels suspended from the ceiling, that also casts mysterious liquid shadows on the floor below. When the artist walked through the exhibition the other day, he told us that this piece was inspired by The Festival of Saints, an annual ceremony that symbolizes Venice's marriage to the sea. Gifts are given to the sea in order to keep the sea happy, which presumably keeps Venice—already below sea level—from going under. "This is my version of one of the most important festivals in Venice," he said, before adding, "I also like the shadows."
The exhibition is rich in storytelling, glass works of art both colorful and clear, as well as shadows and light. The final room in the exhibition features a series of extravagant goblets; my favorite is one that's the reddest red I've ever seen. I'm hoping that Tagliapietra made it for his wife.
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