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'David Huchthausen Retrospective' at MOG

“Mirage,” cut, laminated, and optically polished glass, by David Huchtausen, collection of the artist, photo by Lloyd Shugart. Courtesy photo

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As retrospective exhibitions go, this one is unusually small, filling only one of the smaller galleries in the Museum of Glass. What it lacks in scale, it more than makes up for in its dramatic presentation. The walls of the gallery are black and the room is dimly lit with focused lighting on each piece, each of which is small, averaging around 10 inches in height, width and depth, each displayed in a glass display case on a black sculpture stand. The individual pieces are made of cut, laminated, etched and optically polished glass. 

I counted only 17 pieces crammed close together, with barely enough room for viewers to walk through (and it was crowded on the day I went).

Visiting this exhibition is like walking through a carnival funhouse or a house of mirrors.

The show is interesting to view as a complete installation, taking in the overview from various points in the room, and even more compelling when viewing each piece up close and in detail - and again from many different points of view, because these glass works, more than any three-dimensional art I have seen in a long time, look different from each point of view. Move a foot or two in any direction, and each piece reveals new surprises.

Huchthausen puts blocks, spheres and sheets of glass inside glass balls and inside angular geometric forms like modernist architectural constructions made of prisms, mirrors, and both clear and colored glass. From various angles, what appears to be a clear sheet of glass may be revealed to be an opening or a mirror or a reflection. Light casts reflections on the sculpture stands and on the walls, and from one piece onto another, in disorienting ways. In some pieces the light reflects in such a way as to create star fields of light; in others, large sections of the piece are reflected whole like a carbon copy printed in light on the stand. In some instances, it is almost impossible to tell what is reflection and what is the piece.

The colors are brilliant - glowing primary colors, red, yellow, blue and white.

There is one odd piece called "Construction Field" that is radically different from all the others in this show at all. It is a grouping of rectangular blocks of glass in many colors laid out like a Lego or block city on a circular slate base. It is an attractive piece, but it doesn't fit.

This exhibition narrowly fits within the definition of a retrospective, which according to dictionary.com is "an art exhibition showing an entire phase of representative examples of a lifework." This show covers only one small body of work, which could conceivably be considered "an entire phase," with a very few works around a corner going into the next gallery of an earlier phase described as ritual figurines, fantasy and landscape vessels. Whether or not it is a true retrospective, it is a fascinating show of art that I would have to view over time to decide if it is merely clever and tricky, albeit beautiful, or work that is worthy of going down in history.

"David Huchthausen Retrospective", Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., through Jan. 8, 2017, admission $5-$15, free to members, free Third Thursday, Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St. Tacoma, 866.468.7386, museumofglass.org

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