Exposition Art Blog: Sculptors in glass Harvey Littleton

Sculptors in glass Harvey Littleton

Harvey Littleton (June 14, 1922 – December 13, 2013) was an American glass artist and educator. Born in Corning, New York, he grew up in the shadow of Corning Glassworks, where his father headed Research and Development during the 1930s.Expected by his father to enter the field of physics, Littleton instead chose a career in art, gaining recognition first as a ceramist and later as a glassblower and sculptor in glass. In the latter capacity he was very influential, organizing the first glassblowing seminar aimed at the studio artist in 1962, on the grounds of the Toledo Museum of Art. His aim was to take the manufacture of glass out of its industrial setting and put it within the reach of the studio artist.
Littleton retired from teaching in 1976 to focus on his own art. Exploring the inherent qualities of the medium, he worked in series with simple forms to draw attention to the complex interplay of transparent glass with multiple overlays of thin color

In 1962 Littleton’s first pieces in blown glass were, like his earlier works in pottery, functional forms: vases, bowls and paperweights. His breakthrough to non-functional form came in 1963 when, with no purpose in mind, he remelted and finished a glass piece that he had earlier smashed in a fit of pique. The object lay in his studio for several weeks before he decided to grind the bottom. As Littleton recounts in his book Glassblowing: A Search for Form, he brought the object into the house where "it aroused such antipathy in my wife that I looked at it much more closely, finally deciding to send it to an exhibition. Its refusal there made me even more obstinate, and I took it to New York ... I later showed it to the curators of design at the Museum of Modern Art. They, perhaps relating it to some other neo-Dada work in the museum, purchased it for the Design Collection." This led to Littleton’s mid-1960s series of broken-open forms, and "Prunted," "Imploded" and "Exploded" forms.


 These sculptures, especially the "Prunted," or "Anthropomorpic," forms were influenced by Littleton’s colleague Erwin Eisch, who visited and worked with Littleton in his Wisconsin studio for a month in late 1967. Several weeks after Eisch’s departure, Littleton realized that he had unconsciously adopted his friend's strongly personal figural style in his own work. Littleton reacted to this discovery by turning to simple, clean shapes in 1968, forming tubes, rods and columns of glass that he cut and grouped together on bases of plate glass or steel.
Allowing the pull of gravity to stretch and bend hot glass while on the blowpipe or punty led Littleton to his "Folded Forms" and "Loops" series, which continued until 1979. His "Eye" forms, also from the 1970s, take the form of concentric cups of various colors in diminishing sizes that nestle one inside the next.

Littleton explored cutting and slumping industrial glass, including plate and optic glass, beginning in 1970. In sculptures such as Do Not Spindle and Distortion Box, slumped squares of glass are transfixed by a brass rod. In Rock Around the Clock, a bent piece of optic glass bar from Corning Glass Works in Danville, Virginia, can be set rocking on its bronze plate glass base with a touch of the hand.

 Littleton incorporated optical lens blanks manufactured by Corning with his own hot-worked glass. In each case he sandblasted and cut the optical disc draping, and in one case piercing, the disc with fluid, cased glass forms.These were followed, in 1978, by Littleton’s Solid Geometry series, in which heavy cased glass forms were cut into trapezoidal, spheroid and ovoid shapes and highly polished.
Perhaps Littleton’s best known body of work is his "Topological Geometry" group of series, made between 1983 and 1989. Included under this heading are his signature "Arc" forms and "Crowns," as well as his late "Lyrical Movement" and "Implied Movement" sculptural groups. In 1989 chronic back problems forced Littleton to retire from working in hot glass.Wikipedia

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