Glass is a fragile thing forged hot and has a four-thousand-year history of inspired creation. At the Glasstress 2022 – State of Mind exhibition at the Fondazione Berengo Art Space, works from across the globe come together in the islands of Murano, across the lagoon from Venise. This article will share a little bit of history and a lot of awe.
As with so many things, it all started in the fertile crescent and cradle of civilisation nearly four thousand years ago with the Phoenicians, Syrians, Mesopotamians and Egyptians. Glass making made it to Europe a millennia later, first to the Balkans, though the Hellenised world and then spread across Europe. Glassmakers fled to Venice fifteen hundred years ago to escape barbarian attacks, by the twelfth century glassmaking was a jewel in Venice’s crown, but in 1291 the glass blowers of Venise were sent to the bridge-connected islands of Murano after one too many fires broke out. Since then, Murano has been a heaven for glass. I love the work Radicamenti (Roots) by Leonardo Nava in the Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum) – which shows the blue glass thought-bubble of art growing from the tenacious tree of life, anchored in rock – as well as the delicate yet profound piece by Judy Chicago, Mortality and Extinction Reliefs.
But I want to focus particularly on the works at the Glasstress 2022 exhibition at the wonderful Fondazione Berengo, with its rustic exhibition hall still filled with kilns and its room after room of modern exhibition space.
In this hall, Federica Marangoni’s piece Light Dialogue spoke to me – the thoughts we note in black ink in our books for centuries are really light. If only we could open books in dimly lit libraries and let the light of ideas spread and surprise.
Marya Kazoun’s glass leaves in the furnaces are echoes of nature in its death. Is the message that nature’s beauty should never be forgotten? Several dozens of these crystalline leaves were in an open sarcophagus – a silent autumn demanding a reflective wake.
Vanessa Beecroft’s Angel, with its white marble-like skin and reflective demeaner inspires a sense of calm awe. And when captured in glass, were the angel and its shadow thinking the same far away thoughts?
Koen Vanmechelen’s Alexander the Great inspires visitors to travel in time, to go beyond maps with growing lines of domination and wonder who that conqueror really was. The viper turban is see-through. Does that mean there is nothing to learn with knowledge passed on to Alexander the Great, whose white skin is opaque? We cannot know his thoughts and what knowledge has brought him.
Karen Lamonte’s Nocturn 6 is a work of beauty and prowess with the glass cloth flowing and folding like silk over flesh. it is also disturbing, leaving us the sheath of a woman, the glass skin shed. Where is she now? Why faceless?
These are but a few of the artists exhibiting. There are fun glass monsters with more monsters inside, a glass rat swimming on its back in a perfume bottle, portraits made by selectively breaking panes of glass, and Sibylle Peretti’s unforgettable and forever melting Snow Child.
See the exhibition, on until the 27th of November 2022. See the other sites of Murano and of course the Biennale. For more on Murano glass see also the blog by Native Trails and if you prefer to travel virtually, you can also go back in time and see Glasstress 2019 or go to Glasstress and check out other earlier editions. For the future keep an eye on the agenda of Fondazione Berengo.