Last weekend, the Museum of Glass opened a retrospective show that covers more than four decades of the work of glass artist David Huchthausen. Most of the vessels and sculptures in the show are no bigger than the proverbial breadbox. They possess an alluring presence: thick, heavy, colorful and multifaceted, they are like gigantic gemstones from a magical dragon’s treasure trove. The colors and patterns within them are forever shifting as one weaves one’s way amongst them in hushed awe. Entitled “David Huchthausen: A Retrospective Selection,” the show runs through the rest of this year.
Originally a student of architecture and sculpture in Wisconsin, Huchthausen became enthralled with glass and soon began to work with Harvey Littleton, one of the pioneers of the studio glass movement, which has gone on to become such a force in the fine art world. As a student, a teacher and an artist, Huchthausen has been all over the globe. He currently resides right here in the Pacific Northwest.
Visitors to the show are greeted by a display of peculiar, grainy glass baby heads that are mounted on blobs and serpentine stands of gray and black glass. These were inspired by archeological discoveries at Olmec sites in Mexico. There are also a number of extra thick, blown glass vessels made with multiple layers that include images of trees, mountains and human figures.
Enamored of the glasswork of the Art Deco era, Huchthausen did a series of richly decorated vessels as the 70s ran its course. In making these, the artist discovered lush, iridescent color and varieties of surface texture. (In Oct., MOG will open a show of vintage Art Deco glass that will harmonize with the Huchthausen retrospective.)
By the 1980s, Huchthausen abandoned hot glass techniques and the vessel form, and returned to his architectural and sculptural roots. He began to use so called cold-working techniques to produce objects that combine precision and geometry with rough edges. Highly polished surfaces will come to abrupt, jagged edges, like those of early human cutting tools. Areas of color are contrasted with glass that is opaque and black. These are works in which the projected shadow and color-filtered light are integral to the whole.
Huchthausen’s work of the 1990s and early 2000s are thick, geometric forms of pure clarity with complex, colorful designs embedded deep within. Again, jagged edges contrast with flat, perfectly polished surfaces. Convex areas that are cut into the surface act as lenses that reflect, project and distort the colors within. All of this combines to make a solid object that has a different character from every point of view.
The artist’s most recent work is a series of spheres, each one akin to a fortuneteller’s crystal ball. These too have geometric colors patterns locked inside and there are lenses cut into their faces so that they are magically shifting and forever changing.
It is wonderfully mesmerizing to get lost in the depths of the fantastic objects that make up this show. They seem like crystal codices of wisdom that have come to us from some future civilization. This show is highly recommended. Huchthausen himself is scheduled for a residency in MOG’s hot shop the week of Oct. 12-15. The current show runs through Jan. 8, 2017. For further information visit museumofglass.org.