American Swedish Institute re-examines the art of glass

American Swedish Institute re-examines the art of glass
From Homeland by Ingalena Klenell

"Pull Twist Blow:Transforming the Kingdom of Crystal," a new exhibit at the American Swedish Institute, showcases 11 glass artists from Sweden. Located in the Turnblad Mansion and the newly renovated Nelson Cultural Center (the first Leed-certified art museum in Minneapolis), the show both celebrates the tradition of glass arts in Sweden and offers examples of new directions for the art form.

From Homeland by Ingalena Klenell 
From Homeland by Ingalena Klenell 

The exhibit acts as a response to the collapse of the glass industry in Sweden, says Laura Cederberg, communications and marketing manager at the ASI. Due to a number of factors, including the economy and the availability of cheaper labor in other countries such as China, some Swedish artists worry that the Swedish glass-art tradition is in danger. 

The title of the show is taken from the Kingdom of Crystal, a world renowned area of Sweden known for its centuries-old glass traditions. There are also several large glass design firms in Sweden, although most of the production doesn't happen in the country. 

With World of No Craft, Charlie Stern most certainly wins the prize for re-defining what glass art can actually mean. His interactive animations are modeled after glass vases, where visitors can actually manipulate the image using their hands. (See below for a brief video example.)

Matilda Kästel's pieces carry with them a strong feminist viewpoint. In Hide, she has created a "human hide," in the image of a young woman, made out of silicone and glass. It's draped on the floor as if it's a bear or sheep rug. The image is grotesque; the woman's body sunken, collapsed, and, yet, oddly sexual. There's a clear analogy being made of a woman's body to a piece of meat or something to be walked on.

Another work, Views of Coercion, includes a heavy glass millstone, strung up like a pennant, and an accompanying photograph of the artist wearing it along with a tutu. Kästel's work is jarring, and is exquisite in its execution -- even if the message feels a bit like a hammer over the head. 

American Swedish Institute re-examines the art of glass
Hide by Matilda Kästel 
Ingalena Klenell exhibits a wonderful collection of glass landscapes, or "postcards," depicting pastoral scenes from Sweden in her work Homeland. Minnesotans looking at these pieces might observe that Klenell's images of Sweden look much like Minnesota. She has created a beautiful forest out of clear glass, where the trees look as if they are made of intricate icicles. She has also created glass bouquets, which Cederberg explains symbolize the death of Swedish glass, and images of boats stand as an homage to the great glass artist Bertil Vellien. Klenell appears to be searching for images and memories that provide a sense of groundedness or identity, perhaps both as an individual and as an artist. 

There will also be a couple of upcoming events presented in conjunction with the exhibit. Cocktails at the Castle: Hotshop Herring Glass Blowout, is a contemporary spin on a traditional Swedish "hyttsill," which includes glassblowing demonstrations, food, and merriment, with guest artist Fredrik Nielsen, live music by the Golden Bubbles and Southside Desire, and street food by FIKA, the new restaurant located in the museum. 

Later in the month, ASI will host a family afternoon where children and people of all ages can learn while exploring the science and art of glass. 


"Pull Twist Blow-Transforming the Kingdom of Crystal"
Through October 13
American Swedish Institute

glass art from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

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American Swedish Institute

2600 Park Ave. S.
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