Dale Chihuly at the Royal Ontario Museum

CHIHULY has opened at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), featuring the dramatically colourful works of art by internationally acclaimed artist Dale Chihuly. On display from June 25, 2016 to January 2, 2017 in the Museum’s Garfield Weston Exhibition Hall, CHIHULY includes installations created especially for the ROM’s exhibition, in addition to series favourites.

Chihuly has been exploring glass as a medium and creating striking installations for 50 years. His monumental works defy his material’s fragility. Chihuly’s pieces bring together a centuries-old team approach to glass-blowing with his unique artistic vision. Chihuly said, “I want people to be overwhelmed with light and colour in a way they’ve never experienced before.”

CHIHULY is a mesmerizing exhibition,” said Josh Basseches, ROM director and CEO. “It encourages us to think differently about both art and nature.”

Diane Charbonneau, curator of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) and CHIHULY guest curator, commented, “A key figure in the realm of studio glass, Dale Chihuly executes works that reveal a fertile imagination expressed through an extensive vocabulary borrowing freely from nature, his main source of inspiration. His pieces are the result of a perceptive exploration of colour, form, light and space.”

CHIHULY features 11 immersive installations, including some newly created for the ROM’s exhibition:

Boats: Two weathered boats, Ikebana Boat and Float Boat are presented on a black Plexiglas surface. Chihuly first filled boats with his glass pieces in Nuutajärvi, Finland in June 1995 during the Chihuly over Venice project. At one point, Chihuly began tossing glass elements into the river, allowing them to float downstream. As local teenagers in small wooden rowboats gathered the pieces, the artist recognized the opportunity for a new installation.

Jerusalem Cylinders are bold and dramatic. Taking preformed glass elements in the shape of sharp-edged crystals, Chihuly fuses them onto cylindrical vessels. Part of a series launched in 1999, when Chihuly was preparing an exhibition in Jerusalem, the crystals evoke the massive stones making up the walls of the ancient city’s Citadel.

Dale Chihuly, Jerusalem Cylinders, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, installed 2016. Photo by Chihuly Studio.hihuly Jerusalem Cylinders Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, installed 2016. Photo by Chihuly Studio.

Sapphire Neon Tumbleweeds: Chihuly has created neon sculptures throughout his career. Tumbleweeds were first exhibited in 1993 as part of a larger neon and ice exhibition in Tacoma, Washington.

Dale Chihuly, Sapphire Neon Tumbleweeds, 2016 Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Photo by Chihuly Studio.

Red Reeds on Logs are presented atop a cascading composition of Ontario-sourced white birch logs. First created in 1995, this series is brilliant on many levels but especially for Chihuly’s use of materials giving strong contrasts between colours, densities and textures. Incredibly, some of the reeds reach three metres long, his glassblowers achieving this by pulling the hot molten glass downwards from a mechanical lift.

Dale Chihuly, Red Reeds on Logs, 2016 Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Photo by Chihuly Studio.

Persian Ceiling stands as one of Chihuly’s most popular and enduring works. Brightly coloured Persians dominate, arranged in layers over plate glass, while many of the artist’s hallmark elements also appear in this installation. Subtle lighting ensures the ceiling creates a colourful kaleidoscope effect.

Fire Orange Baskets: Impressed by a presentation of Northwest Coast Indian baskets in the Washington State Historical Society in Tacoma, Chihuly sought to replicate the effects of weight, gravity and time and started the Basket series in 1977. With this site-specific grouping, Chihuly continues to push scale with his artworks. These Baskets are among the largest he’s created.

Dale Chihuly, Fire Orange Baskets, 2016 Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Photo by Chihuly Studio.

Icicle Chandeliers and Towers display two forms that complement each other like cave stalagmites and stalactites. Chihuly began his Chandeliers series in 1992, achieving great massing of colour by taking hundreds of pieces of blown glass, assembling them around sturdy steel frameworks, and lighting them from external sources. His Towers followed soon after as an upside-down version. This installation comprises two chandeliers and two towers. The artist, choosing icicles as a unifying theme, has created a wholly new triple tower.

Persian Trellis, created specifically for the ROM, features Chihuly’s Persians. From their 1986 origins, the making of these forms involves blowing glass to produce a herringbone pattern. Striking arrangements of them can be mounted anywhere-including on ceilings, in wall displays, on chandeliers or, in this instance, mounted on a large wooden trellis framework, allowing visitors to walk through to enjoy the artwork from a number of angles.

Dale Chihuly, Persian Trellis, 2016 Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Photo by Chihuly Studio.

Northwest Room presents selections from Chihuly’s early experiments in the Baskets series. It is augmented by a sampling of the artist’s personal collection of Northwest Coast Indian baskets, American Indian trade blankets, and Edward S. Curtis photogravures.

Visit rom.on.ca/chihuly for details.