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Glass rock star

I think we have all become Lino Tagliapietra groupies.

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The buildup for the Lino Tagliapietra retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Glass has been something on the rock star scale. The anticipation has been excruciating. And now the wait is almost over. The show opens Saturday, Feb. 23.

Tagliapietra is one of the most respected glass artists in the world. Originally from Murano, the island off the coast of Venice that has been famous for centuries as a center of glass art, he gained renown in America when he visited the Pilchuck Glass Studio as a teacher. That was in 1979, when he was 45 years old and already respected as a maestro in Italy. Thanks in large part to Tagliapietra, there has since been cross-fertilization between the innovation of the Pilchuck artists and the tradition of Venetian glass art.

Now 72 years old, Tagliapietra continues to influence studio glass artists around the world. “Lino’s knowledge of glassmaking methodology is so deep that when combined with his inherent sense of color and design, the results are unparalleled,” says exhibition curator Suzanne K. Frantz. “As a designer, he somehow combines two- and three-dimensional patterning with multiple hues into one harmonious, exuberant whole within his mind’s eye. As an unparalleled craftsman, he then proceeds to execute a vision which would be folly for anyone else to even attempt.”

Much of Tagliapietra’s work consists of traditional glass vessels — pots, plates and stemware. The surfaces are smooth and sensual with delicate curves. His surface decoration is bold and colorful. But he does not limit his output to traditional vessels. An installation titled Endeavor, for instance, consists of 35 glass “boats” in various sizes suspended in air. (A museum release calls them boats. The photograph I saw looked like a swarm of multicolored birds in flight.) Another less traditional piece is Bisanzio, made at Bullseye Glass in Portland, which is a swirl of black and red on a flat format that looks like a marriage between a Jasper Johns target and one of the quilts from Gee’s Bend.

This is the first comprehensive retrospective of Tagliapietra’s art. It includes 169 objects acquired from the artist’s own collection and collections around the world.

In conjunction with the Tagliapietra retrospective and opening on the same day is a mid-career survey of works by Seattle glass artist Dante Marioni with more than 20 works crafted over the past two decades.

Like Tagliapietra, whom he acknowledges as an inspiration, Marioni is known for his mastery of Venetian glassblowing techniques. He crafts traditional vessels in forms that are described as simultaneously minimalist and delicately complex. Typical Marioni vessels are tall and thin with a profusion of delicate curlicue handles that crawl up the sides of his vases, pitchers and cups like filigree ironwork. He is known for his bold colors.

Marioni was born in California and comes from a family of artists. He began working with glass in 1979 at age 15, learning from his father, Paul Marioni, and other artists including Dale Chihuly, Benjamin Moore and Tagliapietra. Over many years, Marioni has become one of the most accomplished glassblowers in the United States. His work has been exhibited worldwide and is included in several notable collections, including the White House Collection of American Crafts, the Japanese National Museum of Craft, The Corning Museum of Glass, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. He teaches and exhibits his work worldwide and lives in Seattle with his wife, Alison, and son, Lino.

Next door at William Traver Gallery is another show of Marioni’s work, which also includes work from Paul Marioni.

[Museum of Glass, Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Third Thursdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m., Feb. 23-Aug. 24, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma, 253.284.4750]

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