Yet the artist is capable of subdued expression, as in his “Basket” series of soft amber vessels patterned with scratchy lines. Clusters of them are displayed on a rustic wooden bench and wall shelves in “Northwest Room,” an environment representative of Mr. Chihuly’s sources of inspiration.
Colorful Pendleton blankets, American Indian baskets and portraits of tribesmen shot by photographer Edward S. Curtis are displayed alongside the glass. Unfortunately, these artifacts dominate the room to detract from the delicacy of Mr. Chihuly’s creations.
His best works engage their surroundings, as in his “Persian Ceiling,” made up of more than 1,000 pieces of glass. The installation unfolds overhead to reveal layers of vessels shaped like jellyfish, starfish and shells. Walking under this backlit canopy is like encountering a bright world under the sea.
Vibrant color has always been a hallmark of Mr. Chihuly’s work, and the exhibit doesn’t disappoint. “Macchia Forest” presents his classic shell-shaped sculptures in luscious rainbow shades. It plays to Mr. Chihuly’s strength in evoking natural forms without literally representing specific flora or fauna.
The show concludes with “Blue Reeds,” dozens of glass spears paired with salvaged cedar logs. The juxtaposition appears forced in comparison to the “Red Reeds” set into the natural setting of the museum garden. The clustering of so many aqua spikes lacks a clear rationale other than to impress through repetition, a weakness apparent throughout this show.
WHERE:Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 200 N. Boulevard, Richmond, VA
WHEN: Now to Feb. 10, 2013; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sat.- Wed.; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thurs. and Fri.
ADMISSION: $20 for adults; $16 for seniors, students and groups of 10 or more.