New Mexico Museum of Art<br /> 107 West Palace Avenue, Santa Fe
Flux is brilliant, gorgeous, generous, eye opening, guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser, and is full of surprises, subtleties, and the wildly imagined. In short, while I risk being accused of hyperbole, when you see it for yourself, you will, I think, agree. Paradoxically, I have never been particularly drawn to the ways that glass can be melted, cast, tinted, sandblasted, blown, laminated, filled with neon, slumped, or crushed. But that was then, this is now.
Along with the international exotica of names like Tashio Iezumi, Dante Marioni, Jaroslav MatouÅ¡, Stanislava Grebeníková, Toots Zynsky, Latchezar Boyadjiev, Jugnet + Clairet, and Lino Tagliapietra, there is an equally exotic glut of forms, colors, sizes, and ideas realized at the mercy of heat and artistic traditions that are both followed and left behind. For example, what could be simpler than to take a stack of clear glass slides-like the ones used for the study of specimens under a microscope-and mount them to the wall by their very thin edges? This is what Michelle Cooke did in her piece Chiasm, which is one of the first pieces that a visitor sees coming into the show and a terrific beginning to the exhibition. Cooke's piece is lit perfectly and, depending on your vantage point, this ethereal work appears and then almost disappears like a game of smoke and mirrors. Chiasm is a wonder of conceptual thinking in consort with a truly delicate touch.
Dale Chihuly, one of the most famous of American artists working in glass, is represented by two of his signature blown-glass, nesting-bowl pieces. Well known glass artists from New Mexico are here as well: Charlie Miner, Elodie Holmes, Mary Shaffer, and Flo Perkins, whose colorful, faux "bowling-pins" are whimsically mounted on the wall as if thrown up there by a passing juggler. The piece Spingarpa by Davide Salvadore is a work of almost unimaginable baroque complexity; it is something out of a Venetian fantasy-part stringed instrument, part creature, part marvelous invention, and something that could be used to defend oneself from an onslaught of black magic. Flux is organized into three parts: Artifactitude, Vessel/Antivessel, and Space Invaders. But there are pieces, like Willie Cole's Untitled, that don't fit into any category. Cole is a well-known sculptor who works in a variety of materials, and for this piece, in thick sandblasted plate glass, he used one of his favorite motifs-the patterns found on the bottom of old steam irons used to press the wrinkles out of clothes. Cole's wall relief is spare, enigmatic, and extremely elegant. When the viewer next to me turned to the piece Fur by Minako Shirakura, she enthusiastically called it "the showstopper." This life-size white "fur" coat was fabricated from thousands of tiny glass needle-like forms embedded in a plastic, coat-shaped armature, and it is simply dazzling in its impact. Just like the show as a whole.