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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Water and Glass in House of Sweden

Ingalena Klenell's glass postcard hangs against the windows of the House of Sweden until May 
What a coincidence to finish writing the last blog -- about window art and glass -- and then receive an invitation to the opening of a glass art exhibition at the beautiful House of Sweden.  Washington's Swedish Embassy is a beautiful building because it celebrates the water, with water flowing down its front entrance.  Also a portion of the building cantilevers over the water.  It's in the eastern part of Georgetown, not quite on the Potomac, but overlooking it. 

A postcard on glass intermingles with reflections
and views of the Potomac, from inside the
House of Sweden, Washington, DC
The display brings together images of the Nordic lands, waters and forests with the flowing panorama of the Potomac River.  The centerpiece of the current showings is Homeland, works of glass by Ingalena Klenell, a noted glass artist from Sweden.  Her work has been shown at Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington and the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.  However, there's a great advantage to displaying some of the works at the House of Sweden.  A series of large glass postcards are put up against the windows.  We see them as relate to their setting, surrounded by the waters of the Potomac and with openings for the pedestrians to weave in and out of the holes.

Klenell made the postcards from realistic photographs that have been transferred to glass.  The glass windows, though, have holes in them to evoke the fact that memories are incomplete and imperfect.  The artist believes in the importance of connection to place and emphasizes these links.  Therefore, the largest glass installation is a mirrored reflection that evokes the place of display, the rapidly flowing waters of Washington's Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay region.   

Artist Ingalena Klenell is from the province of Varmland, a region of  in the middle of the country that is the focus of the Embassy's current promotion and display.  We see her installation along with displays of regional storytelling, some of the beautiful fabrics of the region, and a historical home celebrating its 250th aniversay.
Table glass to celebrate the 250th birthday of the Baroque
von Echstedtska Manor in Varmland, made by
Ingalena Klenell

Krenell made a table display with gorgeous place settings of glass to celebrate the birthday of the home being referenced, the von Echstedtska Manor, a masterpiece of the Baroque style.  Her precision and attention to detail show in the roses, horses and swans on the table.  She uses a mixture of glass techniques such as hot casting, kiln-forming and kiln casting.

Of her work, Klenell has said that there is a brittleness and a vulnerability of the glass medium.  These qualities combine with light as the source of inspiration and are intimately intertwined with the search of what is central in the human condition.   (Information taken from European Glass Context 2012 website, an exhibit of the best in European glass, in Bornholm)

Centerpiece of the Birthday table celebration
by Klenell at House of Sweden

Certainly Sweden has a rich tradition of beautiful glass.  I think of the wonderful glass products produced by Orrfors and Kosta Boda, which originate in Sweden.  Everywhere in the exhibition, it's clear that Klenell was inspired by her landscape, the tall firs, pines and birch trees but also the snow and the icicles. Her art is at the intersection of folk art, decorative arts, craft  and the avant-garde art of today.

The beauty of icicles especially is difficult to replicate and even the finest of artists struggle to capture the beauty of nature.  Ingalena Klenell succeeds.  I only wish I had seen the huge glass forests that were on display in Tacoma, the Figge Museum in Davenport and Minneapolis.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Window Art Evokes Patterns of Nature

Allison Svoboda, Urban Institute of Contemporary Art, Installation, 2013
Vortices, cut and painted paper, 40'x12'
In art history classes, we learn that Renaissance artists made their paintings based on the vision of recreating a scene as if looking out a window, its frame becoming the defining edges from which to compose the painting. They created aerial and linear perspective to show how things look in the distance from that point of view.

Artists are no longer tied to those constrictions of creating illusions, so what about turning the windows into art?  There's some artists who've done exactly that, while at the same time evoking and imitating patterns of nature and the weather.  Here's a few good examples.

Allison Svoboda is a paper artist is Chicago.  Her sophisticated Vortices were a 40' x 12" installation exhibited at the Urban Museum of Contemporary Art, Grand Rapids, last year.

 Organic paper constructions ebb and flow, reminding us of the elements.  We can think of the must beautiful aspects of rain and snow when looking out and about her handmade constructions. There's white, gray, black and blue, all the colors evocative of weather phenomena and shapes to express its temperamental nature. Svoboda explains that it is the enormous energies of nature which inspire her.  "The theory of fractal geometry; infinite layers of self-similar shapes repeated in every living thing, hold an endless fascination for me."

Light flows inside Svoboda's window art, but the papers give nuances of shade, and great contrast when hitting against blue skies.  There's also wonderful floor patterns created from light and shadow.  Of course, these patterns shift and change as the day goes on.  Paper is the medium.  I'm guessing that loads of other materials could be used as creatively.

Vortices are natural occurring whirlpools in nature. Another piece of window art I saw imitates a calmer quality of nature.  When on a trip to Healdsburg, California, an amazing work of environmental art had recently been made for the Spoon Bar, the restaurant at H2Hotel.  Northern California artist Ned Kahn made a sculptural installation for the site, a magical window vista called Spoonfall

Upon further inspection and discovery, small streams of  water were falling down a vertical grid interspersed with spoons. As the spoons swung up and down, water landed from one spoon to the next.  Everything sparkled, especially as water hit metal and captured reflections of light.  The trickling flow of water made the sounds very soothing and comforting, calming an atmosphere that could have become too noisy.

As Kahn says, he see patterns which enhance our perception of natural phenomena.  He typically makes art works which incorporate water, fog, wind and/or light and fire, i.e. elements of nature. His works include vortices, too.   Kahn has always been fascinated with the confluence of art and science. 

Recreating different kinds of movements and flows make us more keenly aware of the patterns in nature.  In that way, Svoboda and Kahn are much alike, but their materials---simple paper for Svoboda, water and metal for Kahn---could not be more different.  These artists make us see and understand our world so much better. 

Ned Kahn, Spoonfall, 2010, Spoon Bar Restaurant at the H2Hotel, Healdsburg, CA