Until March 24, 2023 Barbara Basch will give twice weekly tours of an exhibition of glass art from the Basches personal collection, Circles and Spheres. The exhibition is a curated selection that contains over 300 pieces. For the exhibition, Barbara Basch and her late husband, Dr. Richard Basch, selected the grouping with Director and Chief Curator of Galleries and Exhibitions at Ringling College Tim Jaeger.
As she guides guests through the exhibition, she spends equal time on each piece, offering a mix of formal description, process information, and personal narrative — stories of studio visits in Murano, Italy or where in her house each work lives. It’s hard to imagine living in a glass museum. Stumbling through the kitchen in the middle of the night and looking for a glass of water would have all new repercussions. Watching Barbara Basch weave her small frame between the massively imposing and yet frightfully fragile sculptures, might instinctually inspire you to hold your breath. As she confidently rocks and rotates rainbow colored orbs atop white pedestals whose parameters signal, “NO TOUCHING,” she paints a portrait of an intimate relationship with these works. Many of the sculptures did, in fact, live in her kitchen.
As the title suggests, the works are connected by continuity of shape — the works in the show are primarily circular and spherical. Within the selection, other themes begin to emerge. An excerpt of these works were made by Venetian artists working in Murano, Italy. This corner of the gallery transports the viewer to a medieval archipelago with its aquatic effects and swaths of cerulean and cobalt. One of several works by Lino Tagliapietra titled Medusa (2015), the Italian word for jellyfish and not a reference to the mythological creature, Basch informs, abstractly depicts the aquatic creatures of its namesake. Tagliapietra’s underwater exploration continues across the surface of two orbs, Kuma (2019) and Durango (2019), whose surface treatments bear resemblance to jewellike coral and sea anemones. Between them, several works with great-curving gestures in shades of gold and metallic blue ferry the viewer above ground with the evocation of ornamental Baroque architectural features.
Located in pride of place is a brightly hued highlight of the show, a collection of works by Seattle- based glass artist Richard Royal. Royal’s mix of cast and blown sculptures are full of allusions to art history. The hot sculpted glass, Ode to Mondrian (2019) discloses its meaning in the title, but viewers can arrive at the reference on their own, without the aid of descriptive text. The clear glass is lined on one side with colorful depictions of geometric shapes in primary colors, outlined in black. An untitled yellow blown glass orb with a red swirling stripe gestures towards Op art, with its stretched and twisting optical illusion; and the cast glass, Primarily Red Scroll (2017), invokes the massive sculptures of familiar and household items by the pop art great Claes Oldenberg.
The whimsical collection is made more so by the personal and anecdotal descriptions generously given by Basch. Her docent tour offers the viewer a fun and subjective take on the typically passive experience of a wall text. Located on the College’s campus, the exhibition offers students and faculty a fun and fresh examination of contemporary examples of the glass medium. Ringling College is also home to a state-of-the-art glass blowing facility located in the Richard and Barbara Basch Visual Arts Center.
The exhibition will be on view until March 24 and is open Monday through Friday, 9 am-3 pm and Saturday, 12-4 pm. Docent tours led by Barbara Basch are offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10 am. Ringling College of Art and Design’s Richard and Barbara Basch Gallery is located on the first floor of the Larry R. Thompson Academic Center at 2363 Old Bradenton Road.