Heart of Glass: A reflection of resilience–Glasstress 2021 Boca Raton

Posted on 24 February 2021 by Rachel Galvin

“Quantum Leap” by Vik Muniz.

By Rachel Galvin

You may have heard the expression of someone wearing their heart on their sleeve, but what about encapsulating it within a pane of glass? The heart and soul of over 30 artists was poured into one-of-a-kind artworks now on display at the Boca Raton Museum of Art in Mizner Park. The exhibit, entitled Glasstress, began on Jan. 27 and runs through Sept. 5. It includes artwork from Ai Weiwei, Fred Wilson, Joyce J. Scott, Jimmie Durham, Ugo Rondinone, Fiona Banner, Vik Muniz, Monica Bonvicini, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Laure Prouvost, Renate Bertlmann, Thomas Schütte, Loris Gréaud, Erwin Wurm and more. Most of these artists have, during their careers, been invited to participate in the Venice Biennale. The pieces chosen for the exhibit were handpicked by Kathleen Goncharov, the museum’s Senior Curator, who traveled to Italy in 2019. (At the time of this reporter’s visit, some of the pieces had not yet arrived at the museum due to delays because of COVID-19). Ever-resilient, many of the artists were hard at work making these creations during the pandemic.

Irvin Lippman, the museum’s Executive Director, said of the exhibit: “Three years in the making, with 2020 being such a challenging year to coordinate an international exhibition of this size and scope, the effort serves as an important reassurance that art is an essential and enduring part of humanity. This is also a tribute to the resilience of Venice’s surviving the floods and continuing to make art through the pandemic.”

Much like sand combined with heat creates glass, these projects required the craftsmanship of at least two to make them come to life. Each artist worked in collaboration with a master glass artisan at Berengo Studio on the island of Murano near Venice. Due to pandemic lockdowns, sometimes, that collaboration was done via Zoom. (This reporter has been to this Italian island, known for its glassmaking, and even taken a tour. There is something magical about watching the glass blown art come to life).

Each piece is a unique dichotomy of fragility and strength and such are the artistic creations shown at the museum. A catalyst of fire brings about the changeling’s transformation. Melted molten substance, stretched like taffy has life breathed into its length giving it shape. A mysterious alchemy unfolds resulting in magical forms – bulbous and alien until its purpose is decided. The possibilities are endless. It is the essence of creation itself.

Adriano Berengo said within the introduction of the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, “The concept of transformation has always held an affinity with glass, a medium which, as the name Glasstress suggests– exists in a state of constant tension. As it morphs from molten liquid to defined solid shapes, glass reinvents itself.”

Within the exhibition, glass serves many purposes. None of it is there to just sit pretty. Each piece is symbolic and requires study to glean its meaning. Some is more utilitarian. Many others, like “DNA Has No Color” by Nancy Burson, which spells out those words, and “Acqua Alta,” by Valeska Soares, which uses glass to look like plastic bottles that cause problems in our environment, send a message.

Other pieces show the extent of glass’ mobility. How far can it stretch? To what lengths will it go? What boundaries could it break? “Outside the Bubble,” by Sudarshan Shetty, seems to defy gravity itself as the bulbous blob bauble of glass slumps off the table as just ready to fall slowly like a teardrop, but held in suspended animation… in place for all eternity. Saint Clair Cemin’s “Innocence” showcases the ultimate futility and instability as his 24 chairs not only are too small, unstable and disfigured for sitting anything upon, but to add to it, they are hung on a wall for decoration, never to fulfill their given purpose. Similarly, Vik Muniz’ ”Quantum Leap” is comprised of chalices never to be drunk from, unless you are a giant, as each stands 5 to 6 feet tall. They are made in bright colors, and sit as sort of hosts beckoning guests into the exhibition. They may be sturdy but their intricate patterns make them seem very fragile. “The Pandemic Oculus,” by Tim Tate, is a rounded and framed piece filled with puffed up faces of woe in sickly green. The eeriness of it makes it hard to look upon – a perfect symbol for its solemn message about a pandemic, fitting for COVID-19 times… perhaps too fitting… These are just a few of the many pieces on display– each filled with meaning and symbolism. Part of the exhibition is a film called “The Unplayed Notes Factory” by Loris Gréaud. Make sure not to miss it before or after seeing the rest of the exhibit.

Speaking of dark subjects, another exhibition within the museum is “An Irresistible Urge to Create: The Monroe Family Collection of Florida Outsider Art.” It features darkly painted views of the world from people who have had their fair share of darkness… people with mental illness, disabilities or who are on the outskirts of society, people who have turned to artistic endeavors as a means of therapy. Within each piece, there are similar figures seen – depictions of heaven and hell, wild animals, all manner of twisted creatures and tortured souls. For fans of raw art, this is quite a find.

Upstairs you will find an exhibit that you can take at face value. It is all faces, painted in detailed precision by Paul Gervais. It is called “Faces and Forms” and their accuracy is stunning, more like a photograph than a painting.

Also make sure to see all of the rest of the collections on display throughout the museum, including ancient artifacts and other glass works. 

For more information on the museum, visit https://bocamuseum.org. More photos coming soon on The Observer Newspaper Online Facebook page.


"Quantum Leap" by Vik Muniz.

Outside the Bubble,” by Sudarshan Shetty.


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