WINTER 2016 |17
EVENT SNEAK PEEK Chihuly: Venetians from the George R. Stroemple Collection April 29 to October 1 It is not well-known that famous glass artist Dale Chihuly is of Slovak ancestry. In the formative years of his talent, Dale met legendary Czech glass artists Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová in Prague. For these reasons and others the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library is excited to be presenting Chihuly: Venetians from the George R. Stroemple Collection. We invite you to enjoy the sheer beauty of Chihuly’s creations,on view from April 29 to October 1.
Dale Chihuly, Cadmium Orange Coiled Venetian with Lilies, 1991. (17 x 19 x 17 in.)
A Publication of the
VOLUME 17 b NUMBER 2 WINTER 2016 | 17
FROM THE PUBLISHER
FEATURES: Glass in a Restless Age: The Cultural Importance of Czech Glass
By Angela Thwaites Take a look at the fascinating history of glassmaking through the centuries.
Chihuly: Venetians from the George R. Stroemple Collection
By Stefanie Kohn
On the Cover: Stanislav Libensk´y and Jaroslava Brychtová. Head One – Tall Head, ca. 1957. Cast glass, (14.6 x 7.0 x 2.5 In.)
A look at the exciting Chihuly exhibition opening at the NCSML this spring.
In Excellent Company: The History of Kusak Cut Glass Works
By Nena Peltin Learn about the storied history of the Kusak family and how their Seattle-based crystal engraving business has grown over the years.
Lasvit: Tranforming Glass, Harnessing Light
By Katie Mills Giorgio Learn about a growing, innovative Czech glass company creating stunning glass installations the world over.
Slovak Glass: Then and Now
Publisher: Gail Naughton Editor: Katie Mills Giorgio Curator: Stefanie Kohn Librarian: David Muhlena Design: WDG Communications Inc.
Slovo = Word
By Xénia Lettrichová An exploration of the evolution of glass art in Slovakia, past and present.
About Face: The Glass Sculpting of Martin Janeck´y
Slovo is published biannually by the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. The editor welcomes research articles and essays written for a popular audience that address Czech & Slovak history and culture. Please address inquiries to Editor, Slovo, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404.
By Katie Mills Giorgio
Slovo is available as a benefit to members
A face-to-face examination of the inspirational and creative glass sculpting of Czech artist Martin Janeck´y.
of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. Individual memberships: $35 for one year. For information, write to the NCSML, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404; call (319) 362-8500; or visit our website at www.NCSML.org.
Copyright © 2017 National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
F E ATU RE S
INTE RVIE W
from the P U B L IS H E R
FROM THE PUBLISHER
Gail Naughton President / CEO National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
R EVI EW S
2 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
C A L E N DA R
Or email to: gnaughton@NCSML.org
museum S CRAP B OOK
Please send your letters to: Editor, Slovo 1400 Inspiration Place SW Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404
RE V IE W S
RE V IE W S
We encourage discussion of the issues and stories presented in Slovo.
C O N T R IB UT O R S
DIG E S T
Letters to the Editor
museum S CRAP B OOK
P RE VIE W Gail with Ambassador Petr Gandalovic˘ at his going away party after serving 5-1/2 years as Czech Ambassador to the United States.
The first exhibit to open after I arrived at the NCSML in 2002 as the new President and CEO was Glass Behind the Iron Curtain: Czech Design, 1948-1978 from The Corning Museum of Glass. Corning described it as presenting “the work of artists who risked persecution to fulfill what they believed to be their lifelong mission: creating art without restraints. The artists featured in this exhibition were discouraged, harassed, and expected to conform. But, their ideas — and, more importantly, their artistic expression — remained free.” The pieces were amazing and the centerpiece of the show, the iconic cast glass sculpture, Heart/Red Flower by Jaroslava Brychtová and Stanislav Libenský, was truly breathtaking, seeming to glow from within. The appearance of international glass engraving artist Jirˇí Harcuba was a highlight of the exhibit opening. I remember he told us about being imprisoned for producing a medal that depicted the Warsaw Pact invasion and how he subsequently lost his job for six years. At the same time, we published an issue of Slovo featuring visual arts behind the iron curtain. Two of the articles focused on glass art during that period. This issue of Slovo is again being published in conjunction with an exhibit, Chihuly: Venetians from the George R. Stroemple Collection. The focus of the exhibit has changed from many artists during the communist period to a single artist whose featured work was produced in the 1990s. From working “underground” to working in a collaborative atmosphere of freedom. This issue of Slovo delves much deeper into the history and prominence of glass art in Czech and Slovak lands to significantly expand our store of knowledge on this subject. In her article, Angela Thwaites reports that “Discoveries of unworked glass material from 400 B.C. support the belief that glass workshops existed in the Czech lands and Moravia from this time.” Today over 2,400 years later, Thwaites and author Xénia Lettrichová both introduce contemporary glass artists whose pioneering works challenge our perception of glass as art. Worldwide, works of glass have moved from being cataloged as “craft” to art in no small part due to the public success of Dale Chihuly. He is an internationally celebrated personality whose prominence in the field of contemporary studio glass is unmatched. It is not well-known that Dale Chihuly is believed to be of Slovak ancestry. His father, George, was from a family of miners on Mt. Ranier in Tacoma, Washington. In the 1930 U.S. census George’s parents are identified as being born in Czechoslovakia, although in the 1920 census they were listed from Austria and speaking “Slovenian.” There is another Czechoslovak influence in Dale Chihuly’s life. He worked with legendary glass artists Libenský and Brychtová in Prague and later described Libenský as a father figure. That early 2003 glass exhibit was a breakthrough moment for me, as I started to truly understand the complexity and inner soul of the Czech and Slovak people. The fascinating history of glass art and the contemporary work being done today in the Czech and Slovak Republics and in America, illustrate how the drive to produce art transcends time and borders and reveals the spirit of a people.
Stefanie Kohn (Chihuly: Venetians from the George R. Stroemple Collection) is the curator at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. Katie Mills Giorgio (Lasvit: Transforming Glass, Harnessing Light and About Face) is a freelance writer and editor living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She has been writing for a variety of publications and websites around the U.S. for the past 12 years. Ms. Giorgio is thrilled to have contributed to this issue — both as a writer and as managing editor — and remains in awe of the glass artistry, both past and present, included in this issue of Slovo.
CO N T R IBUT O R S
DIG ES T
Nena Peltin (In Excellent Company: The History of Kusak Cut Glass Works) is a writer based in Seattle, Washington. She has written several local history stories for organizations in the Seattle area, including the history of Kusak Cut Glass Works, where she is a customer and friend of the Kusak Family. By day, Ms. Peltin owns and operates a colorful, spirited gift shop called Nena which she opened in 2010. R EVIEWS
Angela Thwaites (Glass in a Restless Age: The Importance of Czech Glass) is an artist, researcher, author and educator with more than 30 years experience in the field of glass. The focus for Ms. Thwaites’ art practice is sculpture and she exhibits frequently on a national and international basis. The work is visually varied and has combined glass with a variety of other materials including metal, stone and wood. Ms. Thwaites has also created a number of works for specific locations and commissions and collaborated with other artists. During the 1980s Ms. Thwaites was awarded a British Council Scholarship to study for two years at the Academy of Applied Art in Prague in the studio of Professor Stansilav Libensk´y. She is well known for her academic research and has presented at a number of International Glass Conferences and Symposia including European Glass Context 2016 and the Australian Glass Society biannual conference in New South Wales in April 2013. At present, Ms. Thwaites has received funding from the AHRC to do a PhD at the University of Sunderland, U.K.
Xénia Lettrichová (Slovak Glass: Then and Now) studied the History of Art at Comenius University in Bratislava. She is a freelance art curator and a member of the Art Historians and Modern Art Critics Association. Ms. Lettrichová has co-authored two monographs: “Ján Berger” and “Jaroslava Sˇicková-Fabrici”. In 2014, she was awarded the Marian Vaross prize for her involvement in the field of fine art critique. Since 2012, Ms. Lettrichová has worked for Statua Gallery in Bratislava as curator.
YOU TOO CAN BE A CONTRIBUTOR TO SLOVO. The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library’s missionfocused publications and programs are made possible through generous support from our friends, members and donors world wide. The back cover of Slovo is often used to pay tribute and honor or memorialize friends and loved ones. If you are interested in honoring a friend or loved one by contributing to a future issue of Slovo, please contact a member of our NCSML Development Team at (319) 362-8500 today. Slovo | 3
F E ATU RE S
Glass in a Restless Age:
THE IMPORTANCE OF CZECH GLASS
By Angela Thwaites
“Glass is among the most important discoveries of humankind.” (Langhamer pg.13) museum S CRAP B OOK
Author Angela Thwaites Cobalt blue glass beads such as these found in 3,400-year-old-graves in Denmark, originated in Egypt, via extensive European trade routes.
C A L E N DA R R EVI EW S Raw glass found at the site of a Roman-era glass kiln found in northern Israel in 2015.
4 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
The aim of this article is to share a personal perspective on the continuing cultural importance of Czech glass in a restless age of rapid change: digital technology is changing the ways in which we do things, prompting fundamental discussion around the values of traditional material-based skills and knowledge, of which glassmaking is a particularly interesting example. To understand its continuing cultural importance and to make the connections between then and now in Czech glass, we should look to its rich and deep history. Evidence of early glassmaking exists from the Mediterranean countries, including Syria and Egypt, and later in Europe. Probably the earliest preserved glass object is about 5,000 years old, a greenish bead from Thebes. (Langhamer pg. 13). From the end of the second millennium B.C, glass beads from the Middle East were traded into Central Europe — so from that time onward glass has had a presence in the Czech lands even though its actual production did not start there until later. Discoveries of unworked glass material from 400 B.C. support the belief that glass workshops existed in the Czech lands and Moravia from this time. The first Celtic peoples appearing in Central Europe had high levels of artisan skill and were already working with a palette of glass colors, including cobalt blue, dark purple, amber brown, green and clear. Archaeologists have also found the foundations of glass furnaces in some of the craft centers of the Great Moravian Empire of the 9th Century. It is thought that Benedictines continued some level of production in the Czech lands after the fall of this Empire around 905 A.D.
By the late 13th century, documentation indicates the first Bohemian glass houses appeared in the mountainous and forested regions of Bohemia and Moravia. The earliest products were beads, bullseyes for windows and later hollowware. Vlasitmil Vondruška in the book Bohemian Glass Tradition and Present (Crystalex, pg. 14) describes Chrˇ ibská in Bohemia as having one of the oldest glass works in the world, operating without interruption from its foundation (cited as 1414) until at least the 1980s. Timber was a key resource, both as fuel and to produce potash, one of the base ingredients for making glass. According to old documents, the manufacturing of one kilogram of potash required many dozens of kilograms of sound beech or other wood. (Vondruška p.11). As the forests were depleted, glassmakers moved deeper into the mountains and forested areas to access new supplies of wood. As well as timber, minerals were also sourced from the environment and used as raw materials for making glass, purifying its quality and developing colors. The area around Jablonec nad Nisou still has a vibrant industry and expertise in color creation across a range of glass types required for a variety of functions — sculptural to utilitarian — including the ever-present bead and button production. From medieval times until the mid nineteenth century, societies were essentially feudal. However, sited on the country estates of wealthy land-owners, old glass works resembled small islets of freedom surrounded by the sea of serfdom. (Vondruška pg.26). Glass artisans had exceptional status as freemen, exempt from taking part in ‘corvee’ — the unpaid labor demanded by feudal lords — which all other tenants and serfs were required to do. The glassmakers, however, were required to respond to every demand made upon their skill and time by their clients — proprietors, other aristocrats, the church and royalty. The reputation of Czech glass for its high quality in design and artisanship resulted in the growth of trade, nationally and internationally. This encompassed drinking vessels, beads, scientific glassware and later, glass for windows. The oldest written trade agreement dates back to 1376 between Nicholas Queysser, a glassmaker from Vysoké and Hanuš of Hlohov, for the delivery of 3,200 glasses. As trade and reputation flourished, so did competition from Venetian glass which was, however, very different in material and character. The Czech potash-based glass was softer and more transparent, better suited to cutting and engraving than the harder, soda-based Venetian glass. However, the Czechs did not imitate the Venetian designs that tended to be thin-walled ornate vessels with fine trails of added color and decoration. Instead Czech artisans created forms that responded most favorably to the character of their own materials — greater thickness and mass, refracting light in a different way, especially once cutting and polishing had evolved. By the 1500s, there was an established production of glass for windows and richly enamel painted ware. In the forested areas, smaller workshops continued to produce the ever-popular glass beads. Since the late Middle Ages the Ore Mountains were a center for advanced glassmaking. In the 16th century glass masters moved from Saxony to inhabit a wide mountain area stretching across the Ore, Eagle and Jizera Mountains, South Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. By the end of the 16th century, division of labor between glass works began to appear with some creating glass and selling it on to others to refine. This could be seen as the beginning of the individual, highly specialized skill and knowledge which is still present in Czech glassmaking today and a move
Medieval beakers such as this one began being traded in the 1300s.
Slovo | 5
The Museum of Glass and Jewelry in Jablonec nad Nisou (pictured below) is the only museum specializing in glass and jewelry in the Czech Republic. There, visitors can see a whole host of historical glass items such as the buttons pictured above.
6 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
away from the medieval precedent where glass makers were designers, artists and craftsmen all rolled into one. (Langhamer, pg.19). Around 1600 in Prague, Italian gem stone cutters at the court of Rudolph II were seen as instrumental in transferring stone cutting skills to glass — the new art of cutting glass. (Langhamer, pg.37). As glassmaking flourished in the Czech lands, development and innovation took place. Chemical and heat resistant glasses were developed through careful selection and refinement of materials and methods. This technological development eventually led to the production of crystal glass. The knowledge and skill around melting and furnace building also grew and in 1765 a glass furnace was heated for the first time directly with coal. (Vondruška, pg.16). This was crucial, as glass production was encountering difficulties in sales and in sourcing raw materials, particularly wood, which was increasing in price as estate owners became resistant to forests being felled on their lands. At the end of the 19th century, further technological innovation took place in the form of gas fuelled furnaces and trends changed — improving sales in an international market. Glass works were able to move down from the mountains into settled areas thanks to ease of transport — particularly because roads became more important — and the fact that wood was no longer a prime material for glass production. The quality of glass products remained high as there were fewer workshops that attracted the best glassmakers with high levels of skill and experience. The industrial revolution had little impact on Czech glassmaking: hand skill was still of primary importance and was not replaceable with steam power as happened in other industries. It was not until the latter half of the 19th century that major change took place, due to the introduction of indirect firing of glass furnaces using Siemens electric generators. The next major wave of change came at the end of World War I. The map of Europe changed significantly, with the creation of newly independent states, including the Czechoslovak Republic. Economic boundaries changed as well as political ones, affecting glass production and its markets. Before the war, up to 92 percent of Czechoslovak glass production had been for sale within the AustroHungarian Empire, much of this directly to the Monarchy. The war years severed many trade connections and unfavorable export conditions prevailed after peace. After the war, the mismatch between production and the domestic market was enormous. Nevertheless, in the course of a few post-war years, glass bearing the
“Made in Czechoslovakia” mark found a firm place for itself on world markets. (ibid. Langhamer, pg. 99). Glass in jewelery and the fashion industry was particularly successful in the 1920s and export flourished to France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain and the United States where consumers appreciated the outstanding qualities of Bohemian glass.( ibid. Langhamer, p. 99). Connections between glassmaking and the artistic movements of the late 19th/early 20th centuries allowed makers to begin to assert their individual creative identities rather than as simply anonymous craftsmen. Evidence can be seen in the influence of Vienna and the inclusion of glass in the Czech Cubist movement. A line of influence can be traced through the architect Otto Wagner and his students Jan Koteˇra and Pavel Janák as well as the Viennese/ Bohemian glass factory Lobmeyr. This influence led to extraordinary creations including the engraved work of sculptor Jaroslav Horejc that eerily combined neo-classical rigor and expressionist feeling. (Petrová, Olivié, Urbánek, pg. 13). Enthusiasm for particular techniques and qualities have waxed and waned in glass as in other areas of art and design. Engraved glass has had several periods of great popularity and there is a current rise in interest among glass practitioners who are re-evaluating and experimenting with the vast possibilities, refinement and subtlety of mark-making which engraving techniques can offer. As the involvement of glass and art became closer, a generation was educated in an open post-World War II environment by enlightened professors like Josef Kaplický. Kaplický, a sculptor who occasionally worked with glass, made the connection between technique, creativity and imagination. Together they led the simple practice of glass making to a unique plastic expression in glass. (Petrová, Olivié, Urbánek, pg. 14). From the 1960s onwards, students of Kaplický, Stanislav Libenský and Václav Cigler and other key figures in the canons of Czech glass, were responsible for the continuity of this philosophy and the cultivation and growth of glass as an expressive art form in Czechoslovakia. Both Libenský and Cigler have exerted massive influence in the development of glass as an artistic medium — not only through their own art practice but also as educators in Prague and Bratislava respectively. This history cannot be written without also considering the impact of Jaroslava Brychtová. The daughter of a glassmaker, Jaroslava trained as a sculptor and began to experiment with pâte de verre glassmaking techniques with her father in the 1950s. Libenský, a painter who had learned to work with form, space and volume under Kaplický’s teaching at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague, met Brychtová in 1954. They began to collaborate and were able to combine their skills and understanding into a unique approach to glass as a sculptural mass. This led to a life-long partnership, which resulted in monumental cast glass sculpture and glass for architecture unlike anything made before. Their work captured the attention of an international audience. Libenský and Brychtová were based in the North Bohmenian town of Železný Brod, steeped in Czech glass history. They were able to work in the nationalized glass factory on State commissions and to immerse themselves in technological questions of glass art. (Essay by Šetlik, pg. 29, in Libenský). Underneath this “technology cover”, they were able to pursue their shared artistic vision wholeheartedly. Objects in glass, which would have previously been rejected by the State as an expression of Western “formalism” could now be produced and accepted. Once again, we began to see glassmakers enjoying a sense of freedom despite the confines of their client. It is interesting to reflect back to the unique position of the glass makers in feudal society described earlier.
The J&L Lobmeyr shop located in Vienna, which began in 1823.
Pavlína C˘ambalová. Dialogue, 2016. Blown and engraved glass. Photographs by Angela Thwaites.
Slovo | 7
Top: Stanislav Libensk´y and Jaroslava Brychtová. The Kiss, 1958. Glass, (15.88 x 16.51 x 7.62 cm.) Center: Stanislav Libensk´y and Jaroslava Brychtová. New Stage, National Theatre, Prague, 1983. Glass facade Right: Stanislav Libensk´y and Jaroslava Brychtová. Open Pyramid, 1993. Glass, (83 x 120 x 32 cm.) Below: Zdene˘k Lhotsk´y. Cast concrete wall, 2016. Design at Lhotsk´y s.r.o., new building extension. Photograph by Angela Thwaites.
8 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
A highly specialized and skilled team developed at Železný Brod. The team worked intensely together experimenting and developing technical expertise to realize the ideas and ambitions of the Libenskýs. They were particularly attracted to Cubism which opened new concepts of shape and space. (Šetlik, pg.25). Together they were able to produce many of the iconic Libenský/Brychtová works that now reside in museums and collections all over the world. Translucency, tonal variation and response to light are key qualities in their work. Thick and thin areas of glass within abstracted massive forms commented on the human condition and influenced a whole generation of glass artists following their principles. During this period, it was no easy task to comment on human experience, as art sanctioned by the State was expected to be of a Socialist Realist nature. Cigler, who was described as a poet of rationalism (Klivar, pg.40) played a decisive role in breaking with the past, releasing from blocks of glass the effect and movement of light and played optical games and philosophical musings about the spatial metamorphoses of glass reflecting surfaces. (Petrová, Olivié, Urbánek, pg. 15). The influence of this thinking is still tangible in work being made by artists today. Skill acquisition and practice were key to the Czech education system. These glassmaking skills were nurtured in young Czech students who started to specialize in glass in middle school, at the age of about 14. This education could lead in several directions — technical, artistic, or academic. Those students who wanted to become artists applied to the Academy and often had to apply numerous times before being accepted. The study was usually for six years, during which time students continued to develop their skills while also studying drawing, design and the philosophy and history of their subject. The breadth and depth of this educational approach has given generations of artists an incredible body of knowledge from which to develop their practice. Generations of Czech and Slovak artists, too numerous to be listed, taught by Libenský and Cigler, chose to express themselves through glass as their
primary medium where they could be beyond direct criticism of the State. As a result, we have been provided with an incredible wealth of world-class glass artwork. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, everything changed again. The State was no longer in control; glass workshops and factories could produce and trade freely, and individuals could work as freelance artists, designers and makers. The management of the special casting workshop in Železný Brod was taken over by Zdenék Lhotský, one of Libenský’s students from Prague. Lhotský Studio continues to develop its reputation and business on an international sphere through the casting of glass on a massive scale. It also continues to innovate both through the use of technology and process and also in aesthetic terms in collaboration with artists nationally and internationally and in cooperation with other regional glass companies and producers. Although change affects everything, including education, glass schools and academies (including those in Bratislava, Brno, Kamenický Šenov, Nový Bor, Prague, Železný Brod, Zlín) are still teaching. Glass factories are recovering from the threat of fierce competition from cheaper Chinese labor and production costs. Artists are still producing and exhibiting glass art. So is it in spite of or because of the endless tectonic shifts in economics, politics, society, technology, resources and environment that Czech and Slovak glass endures? This is open for debate. What I can say is that I see material knowledge and skill as important and still relevant to all glassmaking and indeed all making, though this opinion is not necessarily shared by everyone. Skill, in terms of the history described here, can be seen as a broad range of knowledge, practice, method and philosophy applied consistently and rigorously towards clear artistic goals as an expression of the human condition. It is artists themselves who continue to be responsible for the perpetuation of skill and the sharing of ideas and knowledge across all borders whether they are economic, political, cultural or all of these. So my conclusion is that based on strength and success over more than a thousand years, Czech and Slovak glass is alive and developing through current restless times and on into a post-digital era.
ANGELA THWAITES Angela was a student of Professor Stanislav Libenský from 1983 to 1985 at the Academy of Applied Arts, Prague. Her current PhD research considers the unity of digital and traditional practices in kiln casting glass. “It is not the flawless regularity that the digital process appears to promise that motivates this research, rather its potential to combine with the material presence of the handmade, translated through the casting process into glass sculpture to produce previously ‘unmakeable’ forms and structures.” (Thwaites, 2016).
Klára Horác˘ková Wreath, 2015. Black glass and ribbon. Exhibited at the Femme Fatale exhibition, Museum of Glass and Jewellery in Jablonec, 2016. Photograph by Angela Thwaites.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Bajcurová, Katarína, Eva Trojanová, and Irena Kucharová. Via Lucis: Présences Slovaques : Le Verre Contemporain Slovaque. Bratislava: Galerie Nationale Slovaque, 1996. Frantz, Susanne K. and Thomas S. Buechner. Stanislav Libenský, Jaroslava Brychtová: A 40-Year Collaboration in Glass. Munich: Prestel, 1994. Klivar, Miroslav. Cˇeská Skleneˇná Plastika. Brˇeclav: Moraviapress, 1999. Langhamer, Antonín. The Legend of Bohemian Glass: A Thousand Years of Glassmaking in the Heart of Europe. Zlín [Czech Republic]: Tigris, 2003. Libenský, Stanislav, Jaroslava Brychtová, Susanne K. Frantz, and Thomas S. Buechner. Stanislav Libenský, Jaroslava Brychtová: A 40-Year Collaboration in Glass. Munich: Prestel, 1994. Petrová, Sylva. Czech Glass. Praha: Gallery, 2001. Petrová, Sylva, Jean-Luc Olivié, and Gabriel Urbánek. Bohemian Glass: 1400-1989. New York: Abrams, 1990. Vondruška, Vlastimil, and Antonín Langhamer. Bohemian Glass: Tradition and Present. Nový Bor: Crystalex, 1991.
Angela Thwaites. After the fire, 2016. (Approximate height, 20 cm.) Photographs by D. Lawson.
Slovo | 9
VENETIANS FROM THE GEORGE R. STROEMPLE COLLECTION By Stefanie Kohn
Glass artist Dale Chihuly.
Dale Chihuly was born in 1941 in Tacoma Washington. Like most Americans, his heritage spans many ethnicities, but his grandfather, John Chihuly, was born in KoĹĄkovce, Slovakia. Johnâ€™s wife was also Slovak, although her native village is unknown. John Chihuly came to the United States in 1890. Chihuly majored in interior design at the University of Washington in Seattle, received an M.S. in sculpture from the University of Wisconsin, where he also studied glassblowing, and in 1968 received an M.F.A. in ceramics from the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1971, Chihuly founded the Pilchuck Glass School near Seattle.
Dale Chihuly. Persimmon Piccolo Venetian with Orange Swizzles, 1997. Glass (8.5 x 7 x 8 In.)
Dale Chihuly. Spotted Raspberry Putti Venetian with Devil on Sunflower, 1994. Glass (19 x 16 x 14 inches) 10 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
Dale Chihuly. Orange Green Speckles Piccolo Venetian with Blue Leaves, 1994. Glass (10 x 8 x 6 In.)
In 1967 Chihuly visted the Montreal World Exposition and was inspired by the architectural glass works of Stanislav Libenský and his wife, Jaroslava Brychtová, at the Czechoslovak pavilion. In 1969, he made a pilgrimage to Czechoslovakia to meet the artists. Then twenty years later, the artist returned to Venice in order to view private and public art glass collections. Chihuly, inspired by mysterious and unusual glass pieces from the 1920s and 1930s, decided to create his own “Venetians.” In collaboration with Lino Tagliapietra and Pino Signoretto, Chihuly designed and formed the fantastic and joyous pieces that will be on display at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library. The Venetians in the Stroemple Collection include the Putti Venetians, which include putti (cherubs or cupids) and mythological creatures; Venetians without putti; Piccolo Venetians, smaller pieces based on traditional Venetian themes; Bottlestoppers, which were inspired by perfume bottles and include hot-formed sculptures; and a selection of Chihuly drawings of Venetians. The Venetians are a wonderful cornucopia of color, shapes, putti and mythical beasts. A spectacular piece called the Laguna Murano Chandelier, is also included in our exhibit. It is a triumph of technical expertise and breathtaking beauty. The chandelier is made up of five pieces, each spouting gold and bronze tendrils, seaweed, sea creatures, mermaids and Poseidon himself.
Above: Details of Laguna Murano Chandelier. Left and below: Dale Chihuly. Laguna Murano Chandelier, 1996-97. Glass (dimensions variable)
Slovo | 11
THE GEORGE R. STROEMPLE COLLECTION George Stroemple is the owner of more Chihuly art than anyone in the world except for Dale Chihuly himself. In fact the George R. Stroemple Collection is internationally recognized as one of the most significant collections of artwork documenting the studio glass movement in the Pacific Northwest. Stroemple was so caught up in the art of Chihuly that in the early 1990s he would get up at 3:30 a.m. and drive from Portland to Seattle to be in Chihuly’s Lake Union hot shop when the work started at 6:30 a.m. Kathryn Kanjo, Portland Art Museum’s curator of contemporary art, has said: “George is a very intense and idiosyncratic collector. He goes about it with a connoisseur’s eye. Part of his insight is that he catches Chihuly on the cusp of something new.”
Top left: Dale Chihuly. Green and Red Piccolo Venetian with Red Handles, 1990. Glass (9 x 7 x 7 In.) Middle right: Dale Chihuly. Clear Pale Green and Rose Piccolo Venetian with Ribbons and Leaves, 1995. Glass (10 x 9 x 8 In.) Bottom right: Dale Chihuly. Gilded Putti in Leaves with Swan, 1991. Glass (11 x 24 x 12 In.) 12 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
In Excellent Company:
THE HISTORY OF KUSAK CUT GLASS WORKS By Nena Peltin
In late November 1905, a prominent crystal factory located in Kveˇ tná — a tiny village in the Austro-Hungarian province of Moravia — received a rush order for sixty engraved commemorative plates. Mr. Zahn, the owner of the normally efficient Glasfabrik Blumenbach, panicked. One of his most valuable glass engravers had burned his hand and could not assist in the completion of the order, and the plates would not be ready on time. As Zahn paced and fretted, fifteen-year-old Anton Kusak — a menial laborer — offered to help engrave the plates. Incensed by the boy’s impudence, Zahn slapped Anton across the face, knocking him to the floor. But another factory employee observed the commotion and suggested Zahn simply allow Anton an opportunity to show what he could do. The angry but desperate factory owner agreed to a demonstration. It was a defining moment in Anton Kusak’s life. He sat down at a copper wheel, steadying his hands in spite of the tension in the room, and beautifully engraved a piece of crystal. Zahn was stunned, unaware that Anton was capable of such artistry. In fact, Zahn was so impressed that he not only permitted Anton to assist in filling the rush order, but he also accepted the boy into the factory’s glass engraving apprenticeship program. Who was this ambitious and talented youth, and how did he come to found a Seattle crystal company that has sustained three generations of Kusaks?
Anton Kusak’s Childhood and Life as an Apprentice
Anton Charles Kusak was 18 years old in this 1908 photograph. Anton (far left) with his fellow apprentices at Glasfabrik Blumenbach. Anton was the youngest apprentice the factory had ever accepted. This photograph was taken in 1906, when Anton was 16.
Anton Charles Kusak was born on March 21, 1890, one of twelve children, only six of whom survived. Anton’s home life was troubled by his family’s poverty. By the time Anton was ten years old, he had to quit school and seek work to help support them. At that time his uncles worked at the Glasfabrik Blumenbach in Kveˇ tná, about 11 miles from Anton’s home in the village of Ostrozˇská Lhota. They asked the factory’s owner to hire Anton in some capacity and Zahn agreed to let Anton do the chores other employees refused. Anton would arrive at the factory at 4 a.m. to work alone, stoking the glass blowing furnaces and sweeping the floors. When the other workers arrived, he cleaned up after them as they blew or engraved crystal. He also polished their shoes and ran errands.
The village of Ostroz˘ská Lhota. Slovo | 13
“ I give my best recommendation of him to everyone,” master engraver Ferdinand Nelousk´y asserted in German on the certificate he typed for Anton.
Over time Anton came to understand that his dreary work at the crystal factory would lead to nothing better, so he asked his uncles to show him the principles of glass engraving. Early each morning, before anyone else arrived at the factory, Anton secretly practiced at the copper wheels, cutting broken crystal tableware that the glass engravers had discarded. One day, Moritz Zahradik, one of Europe’s leading glass designers and an employee of the factory, arrived early and found Anton at the engraving wheel. He was angry initially, but after the boy demonstrated what he’d taught himself Zahradik was impressed and agreed to come to work early every day to give Anton professional instruction, a promise which he fulfilled for two years. In February of 1906, just months after the fateful day when Anton demonstrated his talents for the factory owner, Anton entered the crystal factory’s formal copper wheel engraving apprenticeship program. Just shy of his 16th birthday, Anton became the youngest apprentice the factory ever had. Master engraver Ferdinand Nelovsk´y became his formal instructor. Anton completed his glass engraving apprenticeship in three years rather than the usual four. When he finished in February 1909, Anton was one of the youngest journeymen in Europe.
Anton Moves to the United States and the Kusaks Arrive in Seattle
In 1910, 20 year-old Anton Kusak travelled to New York aboard the Rhein, a German steamship.
14 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
In May of 1909, Anton Kusak left the factory and the region of his birth. Having finally qualified to earn a better living as a professional glass engraver, he wished to start a new life. He began working his way west toward France, perfecting his technique as an engraver of fine crystal in several different countries. He soon decided to follow his brother Frank to the United States. Although a highly skilled engraver, Anton arrived in 1910 in a country where he didn’t speak the language and had no idea where to find work. He moved in with his brother who worked construction in New Jersey. Anton’s first American job was piling scrap metal into wheelbarrows for a steel mill. He later worked as a lumberjack, before moving to Moundsville, West Virginia where he got his first professional position in America at the Fostoria factory. And it was in Moundsville that he met his wife, Marie Zizlavsky. The couple disliked living in Moundsville and decided that they’d move as far away as possible while still remaining in the continental United States. Seattle was their best option, so the couple sold everything they owned, buying with the proceeds thirty barrels of Fostoria glass “blanks” suitable for engraving. Marie and Anton were delighted with the Pacific Northwest. The trees, mountains and streams reminded them of their beloved Moravia. Anton partnered with Marie’s brother to start engraving glass in the basement of the building where they lived. The company, started in June of 1914, was called Washington Cut Glass Works.
Anton also introduced himself to the owners of Seattle’s important downtown retailers, who were impressed with his advanced engraving skills and artistry. Anton began selling a significant amount of crystal through Frederick & Nelson in particular. By 1916, Anton and Marie opened their own glass engraving business and introduced their son Tony to the business — at the age of five he helped unpack boxes. In 1926, the Kusaks could finally afford to have their own freestanding glass engraving factory built. This allowed Anton to buy more equipment and train additional engravers — he trained ten craftsmen by the end of the decade.
The Great Depression and World War II When the stock market fell in the fall of 1929, business at Kusak’s decreased dramatically as few people had money to spend on luxuries. But Anton Kusak was not discouraged. He kept on all his staff, but lowered their time to 32 hours per week. He needed additional help to keep the business afloat and asked his son Tony to leave college and join the business, which he did in 1929. He was happy to join the business and knew how to engrave and design, but his true strength was in sales. Tony owned a car and logged 80,000 — wearing out two Fords a year — travelling the west and establishing long-lasting client relationships. World War II was no easier for the Kusaks than the Depression had been. The German occupation of Czechoslovakia ate at Anton. As a successful businessman, he felt a responsibility to raise money for the war effort, and specifically to help the people of his homeland. His influence in Seattle helped him sell an enormous number of war bonds around town. He also spearheaded Seattle’s efforts to raise money for the Czech Refugee Trust Fund, an organization that enabled 8,000 Czech refugees to escape to the United Kingdom after the German army invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939. The war also presented professional challenges. Glass for engraving became unavailable in large quantities from American factories, which were rationing what they produced. Glass was not available to the Kusaks from Europe, either. Zahn’s factory in Kveˇ tná remained closed throughout the war due to its proximity to the front lines. Tony stopped travelling and the store’s inventory was nearly depleted but he went to the shop from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week. As soon as the war ended, the Kusaks began rebuilding their business. The first task was to replenish the store’s inventory and so Anton began traveling oversees to buy glass. “No one even breathed that any stemware was available from Czechoslovakia that year — except to Anton Kusak,” Tony once said. They also recruited new apprentices to train. Business picked up considerably and the showroom was glittering again.
Anton and Marie on their wedding day, July 10, 1910. Anton and Marie’s children, Lillian and Tony Kusak, after arriving in Seattle in 1914.
The Kusaks stand proudly in front of their new factory in 1926. Pictured from left to right are Tony, Anton, Lillian, Frank and Jaroslav Kusak.
Slovo | 15
Tony Kusak, pictured with his father, Anton, in this passport from the 1920s.
An early Kusak Cut Glass Works place setting in the Empire design.
Changes in Family Leadership Over the Years
Anton Charles Kusak in 1960. Anton continued to work for the glass company until his death in 1962, at the age of 72.
16 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
Anton and his son Tony worked together for 33 years, with Anton officially turning over leadership of the company to Tony in 1956. Anton continued to work at the factory part-time and traveled to Europe to buy crystal for Kusak Cut Glass Works until his death in 1962, at the age of 72. During the 1960s, Tony’s sons Chuck and Jim traveled with their father during school vacations, sometimes attending gift and trade shows together. When he was only eleven, Jim took his first crystal order at the Los Angeles gift show when his father stepped away from their display. And during high school and college vacations, Chuck hung chandeliers in customers’ homes. Three days after graduating from college in 1969, Chuck began his job as Manager of Sales. When Chuck officially joined his family’s crystal business, a communist regime was governing Czechoslovakia. In spite of political repression, the communists allowed the country’s crystal art community to flourish. Purchasing was strictly controlled, however, and at one point Tony and Chuck were told that they could no longer purchase a particular pattern. They flew to Czechoslovakia to meet with officials at The Castle — the centralized crystal buying service located in Liberec. Thanks to the their determination, calm demeanor and organization they were able to make the purchase of their desired crystal patterns. And today Kusak Cut Glass Works has imported Czech crystal longer than any other company in the United States. The company faced several hurdles during these years, including the expensive 60 percent duties placed on Czechoslovakian crystal from the mid-1950s until 1989. Another hurdle in the 1970s occurred when many small jewelry and gift shops with which the Kusaks had established relationships went out of business. By 1980, the Kusaks were concerned about whether the family business could survive.
Above: Anton “Tony” Kusak, pictured here in 1987, ran the glass company from 1956 until he retired in 1986
Left: Chuck Kusak, the third generation and current owner, has been working in the family company, designing and selling crystal, since he was 13 years old.
Kusak’s Diversifies the Business But a new opportunity presented itself in 1980. An anxious executive of the Boeing Company called Chuck and explained that six months earlier she’d ordered thirteen corporate gifts for staff being honored at an employee recognition dinner. However, the company from which she ordered the awards had just notified her that they could not fill the order and the dinner was three days away. The executive needed thirteen engraved and inscribed crystal decanters and asked whether Kusak Cut Glass Works could complete the order in time for the dinner. Chuck promised that they could. As soon as the order was placed, the mood at Kusak’s became electric. Members of the engraving team immediately set aside almost all of their work, concentrating on filling the Boeing executive’s large order on short notice. When the Boeing executive picked up her order, she was absolutely delighted and thanked Chuck profusely. The experience affected Kusak Cut Glass Works in two significant ways. First, the crystal company forged a professional relationship with the Boeing Corporation. Secondly, Chuck saw how professional awards and recognitions marketed to corporations could save and grow the business. Although Kusak’s continued to sell engraved and rich cut crystal tableware, accessories and chandeliers, Chuck immediately began marketing the crystal company as a producer of sports and corporate awards and recognitions as well. In addition to hand engraving, Kusak’s workers learned to sand carve. This process allowed them to reproduce logos and inscribe crystal in far greater detail than had previously been possible. Chuck hired additional staff to develop this division of the company, which he named Corporate Solutions. Then in 1984, the company moved to a new location which included a space suitable to display Tony’s wife Neva’s eight window pane crystal pattern sampler — an artistic record of the 120 designs her father-in-law and husband had produced — which she’d been working on since the 1950s. Chuck also officially took over running the business in 1986 when his father Tony retired.
Three generations of crystal factory owners: Anton with son, Tony, and grandson Chuck.
Slovo | 17
Kusak Cut Glass Works Reaches Toward the Future
The Kusaks refurbished this building to accommodate their factory and showroom. To this day, the company remains in the Rainier Valley neighborhood of Seattle.
In 2014, The Seattle Times honored the Kusak Cut Glass Company for it’s longevity in the Seattle market, and for its excellence in being the country’s premier freehand stone wheel engraver, offering an extensive selection of hand-cut crystal stemware, chandeliers and art glass.
Chuck and Kris Kusak stand in the spacious showroom, which is filled literally floor to ceiling, with stunning Kusak Cut Glass Works pieces.
18 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
In recent years, Kusak Cut Glass Works has earned a significant number of awards and recognitions, such as a Mayor’s Small Business Award. While Tony Kusak passed away in May of 1997, at the age of 85, Chuck continues his family’s tradition of philanthropy as Kusak Cut Glass Works is well known in Seattle for its generosity, donating elegant place settings to many local auctions. Employees at the crystal company are extraordinarily committed to Chuck and his wife Kris Kusak, as well. While some employees worked for the Kusak family for more than 50 years, they calculated that workers at Kusak Cut Glass Works have been with the company an average of 15 years. Engravers at Kusak Cut Glass Works rarely leave, perhaps because the Kusak family has always helped them maintain their artistic integrity. Tony said years ago, “Everyone in the glass business all around the world uses the bench method. One guy engraves the flower petals in the design. Someone else engraves the leaves. Here, each engraver completes the whole piece him or herself, and it’s a reflection of their artistry.”
In 2014, Chuck and Kris Kusak proudly commemorated the centennial of Kusak Cut Glass Works. When asked about the accomplishments of his family, Chuck smiles and sighs. “My grandfather devoted himself wholeheartedly to expressing himself as an artist and building this company when he arrived in the Pacific Northwest more than a hundred years ago. If I had to describe him in one word, that word would be determined. He passed on that determination — and his wonderful talents as an engraver — to my father. I am grateful beyond words for the legacy they left me, and I have done my best to keep the Kusak dream alive, one piece of engraved crystal at a time.”
The glass on the left is from 1919. The right is from 2017. The shape of the glass was redesigned in 1921, and continues to be Kusak’s biggest seller. The cut on the glass is Jasmine, and is freehand, stone-wheel engraved. This window showcases a number of unique engraved designs created by the Kusak Family over the years.
A Kusak Cut Glass Works employee engraves a piece of crystal while owner Chuck Kusak oversees the process. These unique goblets were commissioned by a loyal Kusak customer. She personally selected the patterns from the one-of-a-kind glass pattern wall (right) in the Kusak Cut Glass Works showroom.
Below: This elegant vase was a gift to the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library from Kusak Cut Glass Works.
Slovo | 19
TRANSFORMING GLASS, HARNESSING LIGHT By Katie Mills Giorgio
Praha lighting sculpture by Stanislav Libensk´y.
Praha by Stanislav Libensk´y — a set of original pendants designed for and installed in the Hotel Praha, a prominent architectural project completed during the 1980’s.
Page 21: The installation for West Madison Chicago by Lasvit.
20 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
Lasvit has become one of the largest glass art installation and glass art lighting companies in the world. Founded in 2007 by Leon Jakimicˇ, Lasvit seeks to shed a new light on Bohemian glass and take it into the next millennium by combining the authenticity of glass craft with innovative technologies and creative craftsmanship. Now with some 350 employees in 15 international offices across the globe in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia, Lasvit continues to innovate and collaborate on international projects with world-renowned designers and create bespoke installations that enhance spaces in private residences, public spaces, hotels and high-end boutiques. We checked in with founder Leon Jakimicˇ to learn more about the company and how they remain true to their Bohemian roots while literally reinventing the glass ceiling. “In 2007, I founded Lasvit with a single vision — to create the perfect experience through the quality of light, glass and design. I tried to bring the traditional Bohemian craftsmanship of hand-blown glass back to life and to bridge the gap from the traditional to the modern. Lasvit artworks reflect the precision and mastery of our Czech-based heritage of glassmakers grounded in the centuries-old Bohemian tradition, with 1,000-year-old techniques that have stood the test of time.” “Lasvit is a story of ‘Bohemian perfection’ which is our company’s philosophy. To us, ‘Bohemian’ means not only having our roots and glassmaking tradition in Bohemia (Czech Republic), but also being creative and free-spirited and ‘perfection’ stands for precise craftsmanship. This philosophy is the core of everything that we do.” “People appreciate the unconventional, free-spirited creativity…they enjoy being near our pieces. Glass and light work great together and have a potential to inspire.”
Slovo | 21
Top: Oculus installation by Lasvit at the first Jumeirah hotel in Abu Dhabi, Etihad Towers. Right: Lasvit, which now has 13 locations worldwide, opened its Atelier in Manhattan in September, 2016. Located at 51 Wooster Street in SoHo, it will feature glass-art, designer lighting collections and tableware.
Lasvit collections presented in the SoHo Atelier also includes the Candy tableware (above), which now complements existing lighting sculptures created by Campana Brothers in collaboration with Lasvít master glassmakers. Inspired by popular candies found in Brazilian markets, the Candy Collection combines playful colors and patterns of South America with traditional Bohemian craftsmanship. 22 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
“Among our projects in the United States are 432 Park Avenue, The New York Palace Hotel and Sky in New York City, the Four Seasons Hotel in Dallas, Chicago’s 540 West Madison, The Langham and Sophie´s at Saks Fifth Avenue. Hundreds of other installations are located around the world, including the Peninsula Hotel in Paris and the almost 40 foot tall feature installation inside the main lobby of the Dubai Opera. The Corning Museum of Glass acquired a chandelier from our Candy Collection, the result of Lasvit’s collaboration with renowned Brazilian designers the Campana Brothers. And in September, we opened Atelier in New York City that provides a creative base for designers, architects and everyone else who loves great design. Currently, we are working on two incredible installations in the shape of dragons that are 80 meters in length, weighing 20 tons each. They are the largest installations produced by Lasvit to date and will be featured at the Casino Saipan.” “The domain of lighting technology is limitless in terms of combining imagination with innovation and technology. Our works in kinetic and dynamic lighting are integral to what we strive to achieve at Lasvit, creating breath-taking lighting experiences. The installations are controlled via apps or even respond to hand gestures. The advanced use of LED light sources and programming enables the use of glass as a projection screen, creating fascinating effects.”
Two major metro stations in Dubai, Khalid Bin Al Waleed Station and Al Rigga Station, have accented their modern look with impressive decorative light fixtures designed by Lasvit.
Slovo | 23
THEN AND NOW By Xénia Lettrichová
Author Xénia Lettrichová
Czech painter, graphic artist, sculptor, glass artist and theorist Josef Kaplick´y (1899 – 1962), became famous for his stained glass art, murals and tapestry designs.
24 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
The contemporary Slovak Republic has been formed for centuries in an ethnically mixed space in the center of Europe, with all the related opportunities and threats. Hand in hand with other cultural activities, glassworks — particularly the production of sheet glass and decorative glass items — have also evolved in the Slovak Republic since the 14th century. Glass was introduced specifically as an art medium in the 20th century in postwar Czechoslovakia. This is mainly thanks to Professor Jozef Kaplický, who raised the first generation of glass artists through the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague and participated in the birth of the new Czechoslovak glass sculpture movement. Among others, Stanislav Libenský and Václav Cigler were his students. These two inspirational artists — each of them substantially and in his own way — and their related programs, have opened the space so that creative programs for contemporary Slovak glass artists can still be created today. Their schools and art programs differed from each other in the same manner as their creative personalities. Stanislav Libenský was connected with the Glass Studio at Academy of Applied Arts in Prague. The dominant feature of Libenský’s creation was cast glass sculpture. He felt that the color with diverse amounts of transparency, emotion, relaxed sculptural modulation and silhouette in the range from abstract to figurative, were important vehicles of expression. Among many others Jan Zoricˇák, a graduate of the Libenský school now living in France, is perhaps the most well known Slovak personality in glass art. On the contrary, Václav Cigler of the Department of Architectural Glass at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava, discovered the beauty of clear and rational lines and shapes, embracing minimalism as an artistic movement. His glass objects define geometric architectural morphology, primarily based on light play in the inner space of crystal clear, cut, optical glass. In 15 years of teaching in Bratislava, Václav Cigler prepared a strong generation of today’s Slovak glass artists, whose works are included in galleries around the world. One such artist is Askold Žácˇko (1945-1997). After Václav Cigler took his leave from the school in 1979, Askold Žácˇko became the head of the Department of Glass in Architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava. He perceived and understood glass in a broader visual and expressive range. The platform of cut optical glass in clear geometrical structures had been too tight for him, and so he began to work with cast, fused (baked) and blown glass as well. This enabled him to integrate new elements, such as concrete themes, figurative or biomorphical lines, color and poetics. It is interesting to note that among Žácˇko’s successful students were Miloš Balgavý (b. 1955) a Oliver Leššo (b. 1973), who are further creatively evolving Cigler‘s ideals. Two other students, Štepán Pala (b. 1944) and Zora Palová (b. 1947), continue to push Slovak glass to an artistic high point with their unbelievable appetite for creating, crossing their virtual Rubicon, by exploring still untouched virgin glass dimensions.
Artist Václav Cigler Václav Cigler. Clear Half Egg, 2011. (27x28x38 cm.)
Because of his artistic disposition, Štepán Pala has naturally identified with the Cigler’s way of perceiving minimalism. However he approaches the problem from the other side. While Cigler is primary interested — assumed with a certain generalization — in the particular relationship of object and space, the inspiration of Pala’s creation represents the sophisticated world of mathematics and geometry, the world with its formulas, possibilities and limits, and the ambivalence between accuracy and inaccuracy. He reflects its verity and visual beauty in objects made from cut solid optical or cast glass. Pala is taking advantage of the medium’s constructive ability and transparency to form basic geometric shapes. While creating he thinks not only in mathematics, but as well and indivisibly in architectural categories. His close attitude to architecture reveals the concept of space organization. Enjoyment and spontaneity in modeling are projected in every work by Zora Palová. She approaches the glass as a sculptural material whose inner sphere, which will vary in grade of color depending on the light and transparency, uniquely extends the options of formulating the shape and feeling expressed. It is interesting that her work usually creates tension and depicts the fragility and tenderness of life, such as a sea creature or leaf in monumental dimension. The bigger the statue, the greater the emphasis. To stress the moment, Palová also employs the contrast in different patterns of transparency and nontransparency, of smooth and structured surface, of the soft dynamic waves and the rib design, or of raw and glazed. Yet another student of Cigler’s, Pavol Hlôška (b. 1953) has gained notice on the Slovak glass art scene. The objects by Hlôška are made of clear cut glass with surfaces and interior angles that reflect the surroundings, cascading like a diamond. They must be viewed closely and from all angles to get the full impact of each sculpture. He concentrates on the details of the inside of the sculpture always looking for new, sophisticated angles, reflections, structures and their combinations. He encases these in simple, minimalistic shapes, which digress from classical geometric form by standing at an angle off center or slightly displaced. These artists and others are even today creating and realizing new capabilities, preferences and possibilities for glass art. This often overlaps other media. For example, Oliver Leššo, Ašot Haas (b. 1981), and
Askold Z˘ác˘ko. Kopf, 1988. (53 x 23 x 7 cm.)
Slovo | 25
Above: Pavol Hlos˘ka. 1M TOWER, 2013. Corning champagne optical glass, aluminium, metalized, glued, optical cut and polished. (100 x 21 x 19 cm.) Right: S˘tepán Pála. Grey Infinity, 2009. Cast cut glass. (56 x 56 x 30 cm.) Bottom right: Zora Palová. Cell, 2016. (50 x 56 x 24 cm.) Below: Zora Palová. Sea Waves, 2008. (197 x 30 x 20 cm.)
26 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
Palo Macho (b. 1963) are three younger glass artists, each with a very interesting and unique approach. Oliver Leššo continues on the path of using optical glass features to design specific inner space for his objects. Ašot Haas has breached the confines of several disciplines, working with light, motion, illusion, geometric abstraction and permeation of space dimensions. His objects evoke a virtual future world. Palo Macho creates abstract, lyric paintings manipulating the surface of the glass, as well as the interior layers. Using a variety of techniques on hot-shaped sheet glass, he joins several layers of painted, treated glass. This layering gives his objects a character of depth, relief and the presence of inner space. Macho makes ingenious use of transparent and opaque glass, composing matte and translucent areas to enhance his imagery. Glass with its ability to let through or absorb light in various intensities and change color depending on the light, its workability, its materiality and immateriality all at once, is a very potent artistic medium. The Slovak glass art scene has evolved to be complex and diverse and has achieved a considerable
Left: AsË˜ot Haas. Light Object, 2013. Graphic on plexiglass/aluminium. (96 cm.) Above: Oliver LesË˜sË˜o. Secret Spaces, 2014. Glued optical glass.
position in the world today because the artists mentioned in this article appreciate and comprehend it. They realize that glass is a material which has an artistic credibility, which, by its mere existence, emits pheromones to the surroundings and attracts interest. Simply, it is a highbred medium expressive not only through its surface, but also through an inner voice.
Pavol Macho. Shirt, 2014. Painted glass.
Slovo | 27
THE GLASS SCULPTING OF MARTIN JANECKÝ By Katie Mills Giorgio
Glass artist Martin Janeck´y Martin Janeck´y. Portrait FOUR, 2015. Hot sculpted glass, (36 x 13 x 16 In.)
28 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
Glass artist Martin Janecký is quite literally changing the face of glass art. Raised in a “glass family”, Janecký grew up watching his father work as a technician in a variety of glass factories in the Czech Republic. “He moved like eight times from factory to factory, until he settled down near Prague and built his own factory in 1993,” Janecký said. While the factory closed a few years later, Janecký is grateful for his father’s artistic influence and the fact that he himself had the chance to begin working with glass at the age of 13. “I must say that I was lucky to have a father that was interested in art in many ways himself so I was surrounded by lots of books and all kinds of weird things that I was fascinated by,” he said. “We traveled to lots of museum and theaters, so I think I had a good background and a good idea of what I was interested in at an early age.” Janecký decided to follow in his father’s artistic footsteps. His secondary school training concentrated on the creation of glass art in Nový Bor and introduced him to artists and designers from around the world that hired him to execute their ideas. “Simply explained, I blow glass and I sculpt it,” he said of his art today. “I have been working and developing a technique called inside sculpting, which was discovered by William Morris in Seattle in the early 90s.” Janecký’s work is mostly figurative and focuses on portraits, faces and expressions. The final pieces, which at first glance could pass as being carved of stone, are striking and bear significant emotional impact. “I never have been really strong in drawing. I think more in 3D, so I use glass in the same way,” Janecký said. “I make faces from my imagination.” And while the end results are jaw-dropping, watching him work is a truly fascinating process as well. “There are a lot of steps that I have learned over the years by never-ending scrutiny. The thing I am hoping that I will achieve is the image I have in my head. I make time to focus on lots of details and really use the material to its full potential.” The work can be exhausting, physically and mentally, so Janecký knows it’s important to take short periods of time off from blowing glass. “I have to take a break from the making of the art, so I teach and share what I have learned,” he said. “And it really is healthy even for my own work that I have time to figure out what I want to do next.”
Janecký, who now calls Prague home, loves that his art has allowed him to travel the world for the last 15 years and meet many new people. He has been a visiting artist and instructor at various glass programs such as The Studio of the Corning Museum of Glass, Pilchuck Glass School, and Penland School of Craft. Most of his current work is represented by Habatat Gallery in Detroit, Michigan. And he continues to create works for solo exhibitions, like the one coming up in Mexico City in November of this year. “Then I will be working on a solo exhibition in Prague for the spring of 2019. I will take a year to create the work for the show.” As for being a strong representative of a new generation of Czech glass artists, Janecký is excited about the idea. “I hope there will be a possibility to do that,” he said. “I hope people will start to appreciate the beauty of the craft combined with creativity and imaginations that people have.” And as astounded as people are when they see his art, Janecký said he simply creates what he enjoys. “I make what I want and what makes me happy.” You can see it on his faces.
Janeck´y sculpting glass. Each piece can take many consecutive hours of patient and exacting work.
Bottom left: Martin Janeck´y. Portrait THREE, 2015. Hot sculpted glass, (37 x 13 x 13 In.)
Slovo | 29
GLASS ART IN THE COLLECTION
Photography by Mark Tade
While the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library has a truly unmatched collection of historic Czech and Slovak glass, the Museum’s holdings of glass art specifically — works that are purely sculptural in nature — is much smaller. Here are just a few pieces from the collection. They are intriguing and diverse and speak to the changing landscape of glass from a region that has a long history with art expression in such a delicate medium.
Jaroslav Svoboda. Sculpture XVII, 1985, Gift from Myrle and Robert Goodman.
Jaroslav Svoboda was born in 1938. He attended the Glass school in Železný Brod. In 1969 he became director of the glassworks in Skrdlovice. The glassworks became ranked among the most significant glass works in Czechoslovakia. In 1970, Svoboda organized the first Glass Symposium in Skrdlovice. In 1990 he founded a private glassworks known as Art Glass Studio Svoboda.
Ivo Rozsypal (b.1942).
In 1979, Ivo Rozsypal’s glass objects were displayed in the United States at an international exposition in Corning, New York. Rozsypal won critical acclaim and was lucky enough to be a guest in Corning to see his work recognized. He recalls returning to communist Czechoslovakia where the attitude from officials was “We let you go, but don´t think too much of yourself.” Opaxite glass is the favored medium for Rozsypal´s work. Black, white and red are his most common colors.
Right: Marian Karel, 1986.
Marian Karel (b. 1944) studied at the Central School of Applied Arts in Jablonec nad Nisou and at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. He worked under the great glass artist Stanislav Libenský. He is known for his use of geometric forms and the way he forces light through the pieces. 30 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
Above: Br˘etislav Novak, Jr.
Brˇetislav Novak, Jr. (b. 1952) studied at the Secondary School of Art Glass, Železný Brod from 1967-1971. After graduation, he studied at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague. In 1991, he became Head of the Department of Cut Glass at his alma mater in Železný Brod. Left: Jir˘í Harcuba. Portrait of Georgia O’Keefe, 1985.
Jirˇí Harcuba (1928-2013) was well-known for his techniques in cutting and engraving. He created several portraits of famous people, including Albert Einstein, Václav Havel, and Beethoven. Harcuba was an instructor at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague and founded the Dominik Biemann School in the Czech Republic. In 1979, he was arrested for designing a medal that condemned the 1968 Soviet invasion of Prague. Left: The artist for this interesting
work is unknown.
Right: The artist for this piece is
also unknown, although it is signed MR 1985.
Slovo | 31
CAL E ND AR
MUSEUM EVENTS Red Cedar Chamber Music: Hussite Fantasy February 26
RE VIE WS
MUSEUM INFORMATION Monday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday Noon – 4 p.m.
Holidays (Closed): b Easter b Fourth of July b Thanksgiving b Christmas Day b New Year’s Day
Holidays (Open): b Memorial Day b Labor Day
Regular Admission: Members . . . . . . . . . . . . FREE Adults. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10 Seniors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $9 Active Military (with ID). . . . $5 Students (with ID) 14+ . . . . $5 Youth 6-13. . . . . . . . . . . . . $3 Children 5 & Under. . . . . FREE
How do you turn a battle hymn into a concert piece for a string quartet? Composer Philip Wharton knew just what to do when the Vavra family commissioned him in 2008 to write a piece in honor of the 150th anniversary of the (historically Czech) First Presbyterian Church near Ely, Iowa. Wharton’s composition, Hussite Fantasy, springboards off a 15th-century Czech battle hymn, turning it into a fantasy, a waltz and a furiant for this afternoon concert.
Czech and Slovak Fairytales Day March 4
A professional storyteller will share both popular and little-known Czech and Slovak fairy and folk tales, and families will be encouraged to try traditional crafts that tie in with these stories. This program is part of our Free First Saturdays for Students series, which invites children and students to the museum for free admission on the first Saturday of each month.
The Accidental Hero March 26
This one-man play by Patrick Dewane is about an American military officer during World War II who miraculously helps to liberate the Czech villages of his ancestors. This true story about the adventures of Mr. Dewane’s grandfather brings a treasure trove of archival material — including accounts, photos, and rare film footage — to life as an enthralling, humorous, and heartwarming tale of thrilling escapes and astonishing coincidences. Mr. Dewane has received critical acclaim for this show across the United States and the Czech Republic.
Egg Decorating with Master Czech Folk Artist Marj Nejdl April 7 and 8
Class participants will learn how to decorate eggs using the batik/wax resist method. The traditional wax resist process involves several stages of tracing designs with wax and dipping the egg in different colored dyes. Each student will leave with new knowledge and one finished egg. Visit NCSML.org/events for details about the series.
History on Tap
April through October
MORE FOR FAMILIES! We’ve added several fun and family-friendly programs throughout the year, from craft workshops to summer camps. Check NCSML.org for details. For up-to-date information on these and all programs and events, check the NCSML website often: www.NCSML.org.
32 | National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
Join us for delicious beer and fascinating history during this popular annual series! Every other month brings a new topic and a visit to a different local brewery. Visit NCSML.org/events for details about the series.
Creative Kids Chihuly Family Art Workshops May through September
This series of art workshops for children and their families will include projects inspired by Dale Chihuly’s beautiful glasswork, which will be on display in Petrik Gallery from April through October. Visit NCSML.org/events for details about the series.
Free First Saturdays for Students Students of all ages (preschool through college) are invited to visit the NCSML’s exhibits for free on the first Saturday of each month. College students must bring a current school ID card.
CZECH TRAVEL POSTERS FROM THE LOWRY COLLECTION
MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS Czech Travel Posters from the Lowry Collection Through March 5, Petrik Gallery
For a small country, the former Czechoslovakia produced a large number of posters, owing to a combination of the country’s rich artistic legacy and strong economic climate. Even Czech fine artists, in addition to commercial designers, contributed work to the category. The travel posters showcase the beauty, intrigue, and architecture of the Czech lands, urging foreigners to travel to Czechoslovakia. The Lowry family has built their collection of Czech posters over the past 25 years, amassing more than 1,000 pieces — making it the largest collection of Czech posters in the world outside the Czech Republic. Father and son, George S. and Nicholas D. Lowry, have selected more than 30 striking posters for this exhibition — the first organized exhibition ever presented.
CICMIANSKE DOMY/ THE HOUSES OF CˇICˇMANY
The collection grew out of the family’s Czech origins and their mutual passion for these images. Viewers of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow will recognize Nicholas Lowry as a regularly appearing expert.
C˘ ic˘mianske Domy/The Houses of C˘ ic˘many Through May 7, Smith Gallery
Artist Jaroslav Horecˇný places his stunning photographs of Cˇicˇmany houses in unique formations, creating a combination of photography and fine art. Spatial and areal issues are enhanced with light and focus; the details dominate the art and impact the conceptual outcome of the whole. Cˇicˇmany is a village in northern Slovakia, famous for its wooden structures liberally decorated with ancient folk symbols and designs.
Chihuly: Venetians from the George R. Stroemple Collection
CHIHULY: VENETIANS FROM THE GEORGE R. STROEMPLE COLLECTION
April 29 to October 1, Petrik Gallery
It is not well-known that famous glass artist Dale Chihuly is of Slovak ancestry. His father was from a family of miners on Mt. Rainier in Tacoma, Washington. In the formative years of his talent, Dale met legendary Czech glass artists Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová in Prague and has described Libenský as a father figure. The NCSML has wanted to host a Chihuly exhibition for several years and is excited to present the breath-taking pieces from the George R. Stroemple Collection. In addition to the 60 Venetians in this exhibition is the Laguna Murano Chandelier, blown in September 1996. It was the only Chihuly Chandelier blown on the island of Murano. Many critics and curators consider the Laguna Murano Chandelier to be the most important Chihuly Chandelier in existence because it evolved out of the teamwork of Chihuly and three Italian glass artists. It is a canonic work in the history of glass artwork.
Twists and Turns: The Story of Sokol
June 3 through December 31, Smith Gallery In honor of the 2017 National Sokol Slet, the NCSML presents a nimble and invigorating journey into the story of Sokol. Named for the falcon, Sokol was founded in 1862 by Miroslav Tyrsˇ and Jindrˇich Fugner. ¨ They believed that a nation must be physically fit, moral, and intelligent to secure its independence and retain it. The first American Sokol unit was founded in 1865 in St. Louis, Missouri. The exhibit pays homage to the amazing men and women who made Sokol a part of their lives. The exhibit also recounts the perilous times throughout Czechoslovak history when Sokol was banned by various oppressive governments, and how a nation of immigrants across the ocean used Sokol to build strong American communities.
TWISTS AND TURNS: THE STORY OF SOKOL
MISSION We inspire people from every background to connect to Czech and Slovak history and culture.
VISION We are a museum that celebrates life. Czech life. Slovak life. American life. We are a museum that encourages self-discovery, a museum that asks what it means to be free. Through extraordinary exhibitions and experiences, we tell stories of freedom and identity, family and community, human rights and dignity. Our stories connect yesterday with today and tomorrow.
Clear Distinction Czech and Slovak Glass Evolves