Monday, June 24, 2013

In the Muranese Fashion: New Glass from Mattia and Marco Salvadore

Current work by Mattia and Marco Salvardore of
 StudioSalvadore, at the Sherrie Gallerie
 in Columbus, through July 31, 2013.
In March of 2012, I was introduced to the astonishing work of Muranese master glass artist Davide Salvadore at the Sherrie Gallerie in Columbus. This summer, Sherrie Hawk is showing work from his sons, Mattia and Marco, who work cooperatively at their Studio Salvadore in Murano. Murano is the traditional island site of Venetian glass works, where today's techniques have continuously developed since the 16th century.

The Salvadore brothers' sculptures capture color and light, transferring to them the molten look their medium once had, when it emerged super-heated from the kiln. The artists concentrate on a few forms—simple, graceful elliptical shapes ideal for framing the layered currents of color that swim through their depths.

Those colors are, in fact, one of the first things that caught my eye as I looked through the room toward the large front window, the natural source of illumination for all the work. The palettes are fresh and, above all, struck me as young. Young: as in springlike (leaf green, sky blue, buttercup yellow), but also as in hip. 
Mattia and Marco Salvadore, Opera 13. 
Blown and carved glass.

A signature of Studio Salvadore is swathes of color encased in transparent glass with large murrine applied on the surface. Murrine are the slices from canes the glassmaker forms for this purpose. Disks cut from the canes will make beautiful, circular decorations, all alike—like filled cookies cut from a roll. The Salvadores apply murrine at the end of the glassblowing process, so they sit boldly on the surface of the vessel. The small variations in size have to do with distortions consequent on working with high temperature materials.
Detail of murrine on Opera 13

The application of murrine is not the last step of decoration. Once the piece is entirely cool, then its surface is carved. This step is yet another opportunity for the worker to make the slip that would destroy so labor- and technique-intensive a work of art. These pieces are highly vulnerable to error and serendipity at every step of the process. They requires the artist's confident and unerring hand at all stages, from super-heated fluid to rock-like solid. I wonder how many pieces like the ones in this show are attempted for each one realized?

I'll return to my perception of the youthful air about Studio Salvadore's work. Fashionable is the word that actually describes the feeling I have about this body of work. The fact that nearly all of the work is similar in size, shape, and distinctive motif brings to mind an up-to-the-minute, fresh fashion collection presented on the elegant curves of uniform models. The colors and their satiny flourishes within the vessels give the air of draped or folded fabrics. This effect is spectacularly enhanced by the details of carving. In Opera 13, the horizontal surface waves atop the lime green give the effect of a pleated, silken sash. 

Opera 5 is the most translucent piece in the Sherrie show. Its swirling, interlocked patterns of
Mattia and Marco Salvadore, Opera 5. 
Blown and carved glass.
carved surface designs respond to the movement and shapes of the color designs. On top of the simpler areas of pale violet, though, the carving gives the feeling that quilting stitches do on fabric. The effect is not that we necessarily focus on the troughs left where glass has been excised. Rather, their edges define soft spaces in the way that quilting stitches define and gently gather tiny pouches of fabric. I see that this is similar to the effect of stitchery on fine, sheer fabric. Not only does the extra surface detail add the beauty of subtle design, but it piques with the illusion of transparency. Perhaps we could see through this were it not for those marks? There is a seductive element created by the intersection of translucence and the fine shadowy marking of the carved or stitched lines. 

Opera 5 is high fashion in its sensuous, seductive use of color and pattern; design elements subtle and bold; and materials the hand can barely resist caressing. It has the sex appeal that makes you want to get closer, and the attitude of couture that enforces distance as part of its allure.
Mattia and Marco Salvadore, Opera 8. 
Blown and carved glass.

Gazing at this beautiful show, then, from the back of the room, is like enjoying the pages of Italian Vogue, or enjoying a Fashion Week party in Milan, Paris, or New York. It is fresh, beautiful, new, and exciting. A wonderful show of exquisite glass!

I mention a vantage point from the back of the room not only for the view into the dazzling grouping of Studio Salvadore glass, but also because there sit on display three pieces remaining from the elder Salvadore's spring 2012  Sherrie Gallerie show.

At the time, I was disconcerted by Davide Salvadore's show because very little of his work looked like glass. His works tend to have matte surfaces which, while minutely and brilliantly decorated, nevertheless appear to be made of inlaid wood or leather. His forms, too, are unconventional, having the appearances of imagined musical instruments or dreamed "ancient" vessels. If the sons' sculptures are sleek,  young, and stylish, the father's seem almost curmudgeonly in their astonishingly wrought singularity.

Davide Salvadore, detail.
Blown and carved glass.
Mattia and Marco learned their art in their father's studio, Campanol e Salvadore, when they were boys. Both have worked with other masters since, both in Murano and at the famous Pilchuck School in Washington state. It is still clear that their father's influence is deep, being on the surface of the work shown here.

Exquisite glass carving is clearly a shared characteristic. Because the sons are more interested in allowing light to travel through their glass, they use carving almost as another color element, or as an enhancement to the directional flow of color. Because Davide's presentations are nearly always opaque, carving is exterior enhancement. He uses it more architecturally than his sons do.

Both generations apply murrine to the exteriors of their works rather than incorporating it into the hot glass. What different expressions result from the same technique though. The detail from Davide's fantastical instrument shows tightly focused murrine placed in double pairs for an almost classical look. This couldn't be more different from the sons' large, loose, urban tribal tattoos.
Davide Salvadore. Blown and carved

Sherrie's show of Mattia and Marco Salvadore glass provides a heavenly hour for any person with eyes to see. It is a trip to Paradise. That such pure sensual gratification is generated by so technique-heavy, physically demanding an art form is breathtaking, even as a concept. For the Salvadore brothers to bring us such light and elegant work is most artful indeed.

But their show is enriched for all of us by the three pieces of their father's that remain in the wings. Davide Salvadore's work seems to come from a different planet—the planet perhaps farthest away from youth: Age. The complex uncompromisingness of the elder's work; its depth of concept and design; the visionary quality to his use of materials: All this hearkens to experience with glass and with life too. The strange formality of his work lends a darkness to them that appeals to me. They are not only wonders of process and aesthetics, but repositories of experiences I don't have to know to connect to.

Not that this isn't true for the work from Studio Salvadore. But I am older now. I love beauty, color, youth and fashion. I love especially what I know will continue to sustain me, and I turn to art for this. I embrace especially work that I have to think about before I fall in love with it—the odd or rough, the characteristic, troubling, or off-kilter. Often I find that works with these qualities keep me coming back because they always have more to offer. I may not always "like" them, but I always have a conversation with them about something important. Those conversations may change from month to month, but they don't stop. It doesn't hurt if the works are beautiful, but they don't have to be. They have to keep talking and challenging, though. And they have to bear the deep, indelible mark of their individual maker.

All photography by the author, with thanks to the Sherrie Gallerie.

1 comment:

  1. I had the chance of visiting Studio Salvador and appreciate their work. It is absolutely beautiful, real artistic work!!
    Thanks for sharing this nice blog!