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#ChihulyWebShorts: Dale Through the Decades - "The Origins of an Installation Artist"

Dale Chihuly with Venturi Window
Seattle Art Museum, 1992

"When I was approached about doing an exhibition at the new Seattle Art Museum, I was honored to be offered the Museum's first one-man show. I wanted to focus on new projects and decided to do an exhibition of Installations."

–Dale Chihuly, 1992


#ChihulyWebShorts: Dale Through the Decades is celebrating Dale Chihuly’s 80th birthday all year with monthly video retrospectives on some of the historic events in his prolific career.  

Seattle Art Museum Chandelier, 1992, 9 x 4'

Persian Ceiling, 1992

Chihuly’s 1992 solo exhibition “Dale Chihuly: Installations 1964–1992” marked his debut show at the  Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and introduced his largest and boldest works to date. While his previous exhibitions featured smaller pedestal works, the new Museum’s environment gave Chihuly space to explore new, experimental installations which he called “Chandeliers,” “Persian Walls,” and “Ikebana Walls,” 

“Doing an exhibition of large installations for SAM allowed my design fantasies to run wild because I hadn’t yet had an opportunity to explore work on such a grand scale,” said Chihuly.

Among the exhibition’s featured installations was the appropriately titled “Seattle Art Museum Chandelier” (1992),  a composition comprising hundreds of yellow blown glass elements and hung from the ceiling at eye-level. By presenting the work in this manner, Chihuly took a concept that was typically out-of-reach—a lavish, ornamental chandelier—and brought the awe-inspiring work close enough to touch. The spatial command Chihuly demonstrated throughout the exhibition and with the Chandelier hinted at the reputation he would later establish as an installation artist and one who continuously pushes the boundaries of modern glassblowing. 

Another new installation concept seen at this exhibition was an ‘Ikebana Wall’ composed of elements that typically comprised his “Ikebana,” including winding floral stalks and ornamental branches. Chihuly’s “Ikebana” – inspired by the Japanese art of flower arranging – were typically placed in garden locations. For this show, he decided to deconstruct the form to create an intertwined work of brightly-colored glass components, which revealed minute details and vivid colors when lit.

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