Glass is the terrain of Lino Tagliapietra, the sculptor known for both his mastery of centuries-old Venetian techniques and his wildly colorful modern palette. The octogenarian artist has brought a new collection of glass creations to San Francisco, and local eyes are in for a treat.
The exhibit, “Radiance: New Works by Lino Tagliapietra,” runs through Sept. 28 at Montague Gallery.
Currently based in Venice and Seattle, Tagliapietra entered the world of glass as an 11-year-old apprentice in his native Murrano, the Venice Lagoon island with a centuries-long history as a premier glassmaking center. He achieved “Maestro” status at 21.
In 1979, he visited Seattle, where he taught students about Venetian glassblowing and established a cross-cultural exchange that would significantly influence American studio glassmaking. He launched a career as an independent studio artist in the 1980s.
Graceful forms, intricate patterns, bold and unconventional colors and shapes, and extraordinary skill characterize Tagliapietra’s work, which combines Venetian methods, such as traditional glassblowing and cane-working (which involves rods of glass with color), with abstract modern styles. In the latter arena, Tagliapietra has expressed admiration for Piet Mondrian, Mark Rothko and Ellsworth Kelly.
His work is part of major collections, including those of the de Young Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Victoria and Albert Museum.
The exhibit contains 22 sculptures created by Tagliapietra in recent years. Selections include a vermillion piece from the artist’s “Angel Tear” series, a collection of poetic sculptures containing teardrop-shaped forms from which a long needle of glass ascends.
Also on view are several “Dinosaur” pieces. These appealing works feature thin bodies and sinuous necks and resemble prehistoric creatures.
“Fenice” (the word means phoenix in Italian) sculptures are elegant squiggles that look like rising birds. Their bright designs, which bring feathers to mind, illustrate Tagliapietra’s gift for creating stirring color combinations.
“Avventurine” works feature the avventurina technique, a popular Murrano style that involves adding bits of metal, such as copper, to the glass, for a sparkling appearance.
Italy continues to be an inspiration for Tagliapietra, whose “Florencia” bowls, vases and decorative objects were created in the spirit of Florence. These works, which contain murrine (colored patterns made in glass canes) resembling petals and feathers, exemplify how the artist excels at using color expressively.
“Aquilone” (means kite) pieces include a globular work in which blue dominates the space while red tongue-like shapes stand out. Like many items in the show, this sculpture demonstrates how the transparency of glass allows light to enhance the look of a piece, exquisitely.
Additional highlights include “Chaos,” a black and white sculpture with a tumultuous, almost gestural look that suggests the out-of-control forces of nature. “Tessuto,” meanwhile, is a tall, thin, knockout dripping with color.
IF YOU GO
Lino Tagliapietra: Radiance
Where: Montague Gallery, 445A Sutter St., S.F.
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, or by appointment; closes Sept. 28
Contact: (415) 964-4978, www.montaguegallery.com