The art form once limited to Venetian vessels and ornate chandeliers is having a modern renaissance — and L.A. artist Anthony Bianco is one to watch
Until relatively recently, glassblown art was synonymous with all things flamboyantly decorative — a ’90s-born fairyland aesthetic typified by fiery curly cues and pigment-saturated flowers (see: everything by Dale Chihuly) and found in hotel lobbies and the formal dining rooms of the privileged few.
But in the last decade, amid the rise of all things handmade, a new kind of collectible glass has captivated collectors: an interpretation that prizes the conceptual as much as the craft.
Embracing organic, unfussy forms, New York design star Jeff Zimmerman (whose fans include uber-collectors Allison and Warren Kanders as well as actor Robert Downey Jr.) has been at the forefront of this push. It makes sense, given his gallery R & Company is founded by former glassblowers Evan Synderman and Zesty Meyers. “In recent years there has been an increasing global interest from museum curators and big collectors,” says Meyers, who has worked closely with the likes of The Mint Museum and Cooper Hewitt. “The demand is continuing to rise. With technology constantly evolving, we have seen how there is [a desire] to go back to craft and reinterpret traditional materials.”
L.A.-based glass artist Anthony Bianco is part of the art form’s newest class and a former assistant to Zimmerman: “His vision took precedence over the nitpickiness of technique, which was like gasoline on the fire for me,” says the Chicago native of his mentor. While a student at California College of the Arts, Bianco also apprenticed at the Murano, Italy, studio of Silvano Signoretto, one of the most technically renowned maestros in the industry. “From early on, you try to work with the most talented people who will have you,” he says.
In late 2013, armed with a classical education in the notoriously temperamental pursuit and an affinity for bold, Italian futurist-inspired geometry and sinuous art moderne-indebted compositions, Bianco struck out on his own with Bianco Light & Space, a studio art practice originally based in Brooklyn, N.Y., and anchored by functional, illuminated sculpture.
His first impulse was to design a line of lighting that endeavored to “showcase glass as something that isn’t this pre-considered idea of what a glass shape should look like,” he says. Translation: It wasn’t just about globes in various colors. His Tessellation series of chandeliers and table and floor lamps drew inspiration from infinite patterns, and incorporated mold-blown trapezoidal glass cones, architectural brass and bespoke hardware. A breakthrough moment came in 2016, when design arbiter Sight Unseen named Bianco to its American Design Hot List.
Suddenly it was Bianco who had a queue of people clamoring to work with him: Collaborations include a line of handblown glass earrings and textured vessels with the cult jewelry brand Agmes and totemic table lamps and a barware set for global luxury fashion site Moda Operandi.
Now based in West Adams — having decamped with his wife, fashion and textile designer Alicia Reina, from the Berkshires in June 2017 — Bianco is prepping for a solo exhibition of vessels, lighting and vanity mirrors at the new West Adams location of contemporary furniture and design gallery Not So General, opening March 14.
The Future Perfect founder David Alhadeff, who represents Bianco, is another influential champion of the medium’s latest, covetable update. “Artists like Bianco help push this work toward new audiences,” he says. “There is something familiar-seeming and postmodern and yet entirely fresh about his approach.” But Alhadeff is quick to clarify he doesn’t see it as part of a trend: “The references might seem young, but the work does not look or feel young to me. It isn’t timely. It’s timeless.” biancolightspace.com.
CALIFORNIAN GLASS ARTISTS TO KNOW
Gemologist-turned-artist MARK PAVLOVITS creates colorless, non-leaded, irregular glasses, vases and lighting that exude a modern, minimalist aesthetic. markpavlovits.com.
Known for her otherworldly pieces, including iridescent bowls, KATHERINE GRAY will appear this spring in Blown Away, a new Netflix series about glassblowing. hellergallery.com.
Citing the American Brilliant Cut Glass of the late 19th century as inspiration, ETHAN STERN creates brightly colored, densely carved vessels intended to “hold light” (not things). ethanstern.com.
Words by MELISSA GOLDSTEIN.