Historically, collection-building for museums has gone on behind-the-scenes. In the last decade, more institutions have offered transparency regarding how collections are developed, stored, and conserved. Open Storage offers a series of exhibitions that clarify this process by drawing attention to some of RAM’s particular strengths—collecting the work of artists in-depth and establishing archives that further document their working processes and careers. While RAM frequently talks about the importance of gifts from donors’ estates, archive building—both by artists and institutions—is critically important for the field because it offers a more comprehensive look at creative activity.
This exhibition features the work of four glass pioneers—Dan Dailey, Michael Glancy, Joel Philip Myers, and Mark Peiser—through multiple examples of their work. These artists pushed the medium technically and aesthetically, shaping a field that was just starting to unfold in the last half of the twentieth century.
Arranged as solo showcases, the exhibition offers opportunities to compare and contrast individual works by each artist. Featuring almost 40 pieces—mainly sculptural vessels—created between 1977 and 2005, it is not only a snapshot of these individual artist’s careers, but also a very small percentage of the 1,000 plus contemporary glass works at RAM to date. As a whole, major figures in contemporary glass, such as these, were moving away from function and using the material to investigate aesthetic, personal, and social and cultural issues.
Reflecting the very experimental nature of the first decades of exploring glass as an art medium, a variety of techniques are represented—some more traditional and some distinct to these artist’s individual working styles. For example, Michael Glancy’s process, which involves working with glass in a cold state, involves carving, sandblasting, engraving, and electroforming.
RAM Showcases Glass Archives is not a survey of the dynamism and fluctuation in glass today. This show does not reflect the significant contributions that have been made in recent decades by women like Karen LaMonte, Ginny Ruffner, Lisabeth Sterling, Ann Wolff, and Toots Zynsky; nor does it take into account the great variety of ways in which glass is now being used in jewelry, installations, and mixed media presentations. While RAM has examples of these types of work, they have not yet reached numbers to qualify as archival. If donation trends persist, this has the potential to change over time.