Monday July 10, 2017 | by Sarah Thaw

Themes of innovation and sustainability explored at decennial “Young Glass” juried exhibition

A lot can change in 10 years, and at the once-a-decade exhibition "Young Glass," the progression within glass art is on full display. Since it's launch in 1987 at the Glasmuseet Ebeltoft in Denmark, the competition has intended to inspire and encourage innovation in the realm of glass art. 

"Young Glass 2017" is the fourth iteration of the series, showcasing the rising generation of young glass artists. In June, works from 57 selected artists under the age of 35 went on display, where it will remain through October 29, 2017. The GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet spoke with a participating artist, an event organizer, as well as a museum official to better understand what's changing about this important international survey exhibition of new talent in glass.

“To be included in that snapshot feels really special. I will not be qualified to participate in the next exhibit ten years from now, and I had not yet developed work in glass when it last occurred ten years ago,” Victoria Ahmadizadeh, one of the Young Glass 2017 featured artists, said. “I recently graduated with my MFA in Glass from VCU. It feels like a very potent moment in my life is being frozen in a time capsule, marked as a milestone that I can share in and celebrate with the community that has nurtured me.”

While a link to traditional methods remains present in the exhibition, new approaches to working with the material are emphasized and celebrated. Diverging from the standard at previous exhibitions, at this year's show, glass does not always take center stage. Multimedia, performance and installations are some of the forms artists used to complement the glass in their work.

Ahmadizadeh’s piece on display in the exhibition, The Most Unkind Morsels of the Self Removed, features blown glass shards with a found denim jacket, gaffer tape and safety pins.

“My creative process for this work began with writing poetry. After selecting and grouping together a number of poems that serve to tell a story, I began to choose phrases from this writing as a point of departure in making images and sculptures,” Ahmadizadeh said. “When making this piece, I was most concerned with how the use of glass could evoke the poetic metaphor of the source text, seen in the resulting work as its title. An element of alchemical transformation is not only present within the process of manipulating glass; it is also present in the metamorphosis of words into images.”

Exploring new possibilities in ways to use (and reuse) glass was further explored through Young Glass 2017’s Glass Heap Challenge, “Rethinking Beer Drinking,” hosted in partnership with British artist Matt Durran and local microbrewery Ebeltoft Gårdbryggeri.

From June 12 to 15, Durran challenged the participating artists to work with recycled glass to create products for the microbrewery. The primary goal behind the challenge was to generate consumer interest in locally produced beer, while simultaneously encouraging people to visit the museum.

This served as the 11th Glass Heap Challenge, a series that Durran first conceptualized through his early experiences working with waste glass. He said that the idea came into fruition once he realized a mutually beneficial relationship could be formed between waste management companies, who had an excess of glass, and his artist colleagues, who had a shortage of work. He decided to merge the two together, which resulted in success for both sides.

“Interestingly enough, the waste management company that we first dealt with, we knew some colleagues from them, we did a trade show and they were the only waste management company that had products and they issued huge contracts because they had something physical to show the customers and stand out,” he said. “So that was really the mission point to the whole project.”

Following suit with the original mission of the Glass Heap Challenge, in this year’s edition, Durran asked the participating young glass artists to utilize their skills to help the microbrewery and the museum. Both were looking for a solution to increase public engagement-- the microbrewery wanted products made and the glass museum wanted to expand their workshops and get involved with local business. 

“I really like this sort of placement of two industries, both of them suffering from a similar problem or looking for solutions and marrying the two together,” he said. “That’s my favorite thing, because it’s mutually beneficial for both parties.”

Aligning with the exhibition's overall theme of innovation, Durran noted that the nature of this challenge called for artists to think beyond traditional ways of using glass.

“How often is glass asked to be done to make demonstrations? You fit into a pattern of demonstrating something that you’ve done over many years, it becomes a repetitive thing in some ways,” he said. “Whereas with the Glass Heap Challenge, it’s how you make something and how you’re going to change it.”

The major motif of the challenge centered around sustainability and how to extend the life of glass. Durran said that he hoped to convey to the audience that it is not a “waste of time” trying to recycle glass and that it is possible for glass to have a second or third life. 

Pia Bittner, head of communication at the Glasmuseet Ebeltoft, said that innovative sustainability is an “important theme, which concerns a lot of the artists and makers within contemporary glass art.”

“Many artists and makers are already addressing this issue and experimenting with new methods and strategies for developing sustainable ways of working with glass and production by re-using some of the resources and materials, which are found in the vast piles of glass scraps found all over the world,” she said. “Thus it is a tendency within the field of contemporary glass art making, design and production.”

Following the opening of the exhibition, Zuzana Kubelková, Kathryn Wightman, Erin Dickson, Bjørn Friborg, Carina Cecilia Cheung, Rui Sasaki, and Pavel Skrott were announced as the Young Glass 2017 award winners.

Zuzana Kubelková, from the Czech Republic, took home the grand Ebeltoft Prize of 10,000 Euro and a future solo exhibition at the Glasmuseet Ebeltoft for her piece, My Chemical Romance, which utilizes glass in its industrial form; exploring the progression of glass art while serving as a metaphor for continuously changing relationships.

IF YOU GO:

"Young Glass 2017"
Through October 29, 2017
Glasmuseet Ebeltoft
Strandvejen 8, 8400
Ebeltoft, Denmark
Tel: +45.86.34.17.99
Website

GLASS: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for 35 years.