1962: ALTERNATIVE HISTORIES

The recent celebration surrounding the 50th anniversary of studio glass art movement highlighted the groundbreaking achievements of Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino.  This talk outlines a series of alternative genesis stories for contemporary glass artists.  In addition to Toledo, I will propose several other sites for glass art’s Eden: New York, Tokyo, and Los Angeles. The 1960s and 70s offer compelling antecedents for current glass practice in the investigation of surface and materiality, performance and the object. 

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In 1962 was a pivotal year; Allen Ginzberg wrote “Howl,” a poem that some say turned America from the conventional 1950s to a new decade of liberation overnight.  It begins:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night . . . 

In the visual arts, a similar explosive moment occurred; an extraordinary interrogation of Modernism marks this period.  

 

Current scholarship has both illuminated and expanded our understanding of early postmodern studio practice in the early 1960s.  Helen Frankenthaler’s unleashing of pigment in her Color Field painting gave equal weight to the making of a work as its final product.  Andy Warhol’s dismantling of fine art hierarchies in his Pop Art brought in popular culture and mass production into the studio.  Eva Hesse’s investigating of sculptural display in her Minimalist Art proposed a new kind of encounter.  Robert Irwin’s eliminating of the frame in his Los Angeles-based Light and Space work offered light as a new material.  And, Yoko Ono’s broadening of “art” in her Fluxus compositions and performances questioned the nature of art itself.  Together, these artists offer a deep inquiry into the issues of production and commodification, material and spectatorship, of avant-garde art.  

 

Genesis stories—the myths and legends of our origins—are integral to our humanity.  These tales reflect our culture, shape our identity, and define our ambition.  In place of studio glass’ received history, I offer alternative stories that I believe are both more radical and compelling narratives to draw on.