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Down under at the Museum of Glass

glass art movement in Australia drops in on Tacoma

"The Portland Panels: Choreographed Geometry," by Klaus Moje, 2007, kiln-formed and diamond-polished glass. {Photo courtesy of Glenn Ostergaard Glass Collection}

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Little known to most Americans, there is a glass art movement in Australia that developed alongside the similar glass art movement in our area going back to the 1970s, spurred by artists from Pilchuck and the Bullseye Glass Company in Portland. "The connections between Australia and the Pacific Northwest are longstanding and fascinating, but the differences between the art of the two regions are just as intriguing," says Vicki Halper, curator of "Links: Australian Glass and the Pacific Northwest" at Museum of Glass.

The show at MOG features the works of 21 Australian and five American contemporary glass artists. The works are interestingly arranged in three galleries according to styles or themes.

In the first gallery are works with a predominance of striped and layered vases, bowls and panels in what seems to be a signature Australian style featuring variously colored bars or stripes fused together to create abstract patterns or landscapes as exemplified by Klaus Moje's massive "The Portland Panels: Choreographed Geometry," four panels measuring 74½ by 47½ inches with a network of intricately connected bars of yellow, black and dusty rose crisscrossing on the flat gray surface, or in Giles Bettison's vessels and baskets which look like Northwest Coastal Indian baskets in woven patterns of red and yellow.

The second gallery is filled with fun and funky works highlighted by portrait faces and other quirky works - some reminiscent of the great American artist Red Grooms - that are mostly humorous and light hearted.

The third gallery features subtle and nuanced pieces with very little color and delicately balanced abstract forms such as Jane Bruce's "Shift," three minimalist forms standing upright in front of a white "wall." Each of these little monolithic forms is white but with one edge colored: one yellow, one blue and one red. Or Gabriella Bisetto's beautifully formed and delicately balanced glass sculptures that look simultaneously massive (like giant bolders) and as delicate as thin-shelled eggs. From across the gallery they look like they're made of polished steel, but up close you can barely see that they are hollow forms with thin glass shells that look like they are lighting from inside.

Well known Americans in the show are Steve Klein, Dante Marioni, Richard Marquis and April Surgent.

This is the first American museum exhibition dedicated to the wide spectrum of Australian studio glass and the connection between artists and institutions in Australia and the Pacific Northwest. It is a show that should not be missed.

Museum of Glass will present 17 weeks of visiting artists, most of whom are represented in the exhibition, over the summer. A schedule of the visiting artist program can be found on the MOG website at

"LINKS: AUSTRALIAN GLASS AND THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST," through January 2014, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St. Tacoma, $5-$12, 866.4MUSEUM

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