Lino Tagliapietra continues to share his experience as a technically masterful glass blower, teacher and artist who travels the world in search of inspiration for his work. This thirst for discovery mirrors one of his favorite explorers, Corto Maltese, a character from an early graphic novel by Italian comic book artist Hugo Pratt (1927-1995), who was venerated for fantastical stories and graphic dexterity. An interesting sidebar is that Lino’s wife, (Lina Ongaro), of over 56 years had and uncle who also was an artist who worked alongside Pratt when he was in Venice. Through the artwork and stories, Lino found a simpatico spirit and fellow adventurer in the tales of Corto’s travels as told through Pratt’s art.
This year at SOFA Chicago, Lino Tagliapietra will debut several new series—Cayuga, Contarini and Fórcole—all reminiscent of places or experiences visited or imagined by the artist; he also continues to explore both panel glass and the sumptuous and challenging avventurine with a five Dinosaur Installation. Lino is forever striving to find new inspirations, forms, and techniques as well as opportunities to make his work.
Fórcole, which Tagliapietra designed specifically for this show, are named after the rowlocks found on the gondolas in the beautiful lagoons of his native Venice. In this body of work, he re-imagines the centuries-old tradition of making fórcole, metamorphosing a functional object into sculpture. With remarkable technical ability, he communicates his expressive aesthetic and his light, intelligent, and inspiring presence. The strength and beauty of the glass parallels the natural vitality of the young wood that becomes fórcole. As with traditional Venetian oarlocks, each of Tagliapietra’s Fórcole requires an impressive amount of time and labor. Much as the wood must first be carefully chosen, hewn, seasoned, carved, and then finished with sandpaper and a sealant, so the glass and colors must first be made, blown into a shape, cut from the vessel, carved with battuto, shaped through slumping in a kiln, and polished. The Maestro has stated that it will be some time before he creates additional Fórcole because the amount of work that goes into each piece is so staggering.
Cayuga experiments with shape as the compressed sides diverge from Lino’s more trademark symmetry. Lino worked with this form in May of this year at the MIT hot shop in Cambridge, MA and was very excited about the shape of the vessel. The sensual piece in this exhibition was made a few months later, at the GAS conference in at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY, and named after the nearby Finger Lakes. When he travels to work in different hot shops around the world, Lino prefers to bring his own color which he has special recipes for, and one of his favorites is his own red.
Another new series is the Contarini, first blown May 2016 at the MIT hot shop in Cambridge, MA. Lino’s Contarini— colorful, multilayered vessels with clear murrini and swirling, vertical composition—are defined by wildly mod graphics. They are so named because they reminded Lino of the windows the Palazzo Contarini, in Venice.
The Contarini family is a noted Venetian family, from which eight Doges led the Venetian Republic forward through ever changing ages between 1043 and 1797. The famous architect, Andrea Palladio, who was employed by the Contarini and their relatives, designed several of the most outstanding neo-classical structures in the Veneto’s environs.
A true adventurer with the material, another series in Tagliapietra’s recent body of work revitalizes a centuries-old glass-making technique called avventurine (from the Italian for adventure), which began in 17th-century Murano when a member of the Miotti family accidentally dropped some copper filings into a glass batch. The delicate process of incorporating metal into liquid glass then cooling it in low oxygen, reducing atmosphere as the mineral deposits clump gingerly together is capricious and often results in failure. Just to prepare the material is a feat of alchemy. When it works, shimmering striations of crystallized metal suspend wondrously in the glass. As Tagliapietra has described it “…sometimes I feel that it is not glass … but I feel the absolute magic and the preciousness of a material that came from the past.” The serpentine Fenice and the elegant Oca reveal how colors can vary from silver to gold, copper red to blue, purple to green depending on the filtering effects of the colored glass comprising the body of the material, and how the suspended metal deposits can be pulled into assorted shapes.
In Greek and Roman mythology, the Muses were a source of knowledge and the inspirational goddesses of the arts—music, sculpture, poetry and dance. Glass artist Lino Tagliapietra finds his muses all around him. Whether traveling to upstate New York or an island in the South Pacific, glimpsing a water bird stretching her neck to the sky or the reflection of colors in his lagoon, Lino discovers new ideas wherever he finds himself. He is completely open to the experiences of life and perpetually looking forward to the next inspiration.