Sunday, April 14, 2019

Dale Chihuly at the Arthur Roger Gallery


I had not planned to review this show. Dale Chihuly glass sculpture has a spectacular, seductive quality that can cause art critics to run out of adjectives, but this Arthur Roger expo is actually kind of special. Beyond that, the daily political news, here and abroad, has become so incoherent that it can induce instant mental exhaustion. We need a break, and this extravagant expo of intriguing high-end eye candy is almost like a visual mini-vacation of sorts. That said, art and life have a longstanding co-dependent relationship, so you should not be too surprised that Arthur Roger built a wall. Fortunately, this one has nothing to do with hapless refugees at our southern border.


“Persian Garden,” top, rests on a glass ceiling of a specially constructed walled passageway. An upward glance reveals a glowing world of incandescent psychedelic jellyfish-like forms that can beguile the eye with their extraordinary lush craftsmanship. Even so, critics will ask, what does it all mean? The passage opens onto a gallery where a flat, glowing blue rectangle, “Ikebana Glass on Glass Painting,” left, is one of many such “glass on glass” paintings that, while meticulous, require less intense group effort to produce than iconic sculptural works like “Clarion Burgundy Chandelier,” a kind of six foot wide sea anemone, a grand imperial Louis XIV of the seas, or “Fire Opal Chandelier,” above, a totemic cornucopia of ruby-hued trumpet flowers. But in Chihuly-world, floral and undersea forms merge like creatures dredged from the depths of the imagination, and if you wonder how it is all done, the artist, now 77 and suffering from longstanding bipolar disorder and numerous injuries including the loss of sight in one eye, relies on teams of dedicated helpers. This collaborative approach goes back to his old utopian college days as a community activist and anti-Vietnam war organizer followed by a stint at an Israeli kibbutz. It has been a long, extraordinary run for the Takoma, Washington-born son of a former coal miner. He regards his creations as being all about “light,” and could care less what art critics think of his extraordinarily popular life's work. ~Bookhardt / Chihuly: Glass Paintings and Sculpture, Through June 22, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999.