Exploring Glass in Contemporary Sculpture at the Henry Moore Institute

Glass sculptures created between 1965 and the present day will be on display in a new exhibition entitled A State of Matter: Modern and Contemporary Glass Sculpture at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, UK . The exhibition, which aims to explore glass through its three different states of matter: solid, liquid and gas, will unveil pieces from 16 different artists including Claire Falkenstein, Mona Hatoum, Luke Jerram, Joseph Kosuth and Hew Locke.

A State of Matter: Modern and Contemporary Glass Sculpture will showcase the material properties of glass as a medium, and the ways in which artists have worked with or against these properties.

The exhibition is curated by the Henry Moore Institute’s Research Curator Dr Clare O’Dowd who says: “Glass is a mysterious and wonderful thing. Alongside its aesthetic qualities, the alchemical and secretive production processes involved in working with glass have rendered it an especially troublesome proposition for sculptors.The sculpture on display in this exhibition shows the breadth of ways sculptors have got to grips with the material. Interest in glass as a material for sculpture has never been greater. From the success of Netflix’s Blown Away series, to the UN’s support for the International Year of Glass and the development of this major exhibition, glass is truly having its moment in the spotlight.”

See also: Sculpture Exhibition Opens Public Art Space in Woking


The exhibition will highlight some of the ways artists have worked with glass, sometimes using its common properties, sometimes challenging them, and often whilst making profound underlying comments on issues of identity or human frailty. The exhibition explores glass through its three different states of matter: solid, liquid and gas, which roughly correspond to specific techniques such as cast glass, poured molten glass, and blown glass.

Elliot Walker SPILLAGE 2021. Photo: Simon Bruntnell

The expectations of material and subject are cleverly subverted in many of the sculptures, such as Alena Matějka’s weighty Magic Carpets 2004, or Elliot Walker’s highly illusionistic oranges. Other sculptures use the fragility of glass in a metaphoric sense to suggest the vulnerability of the human condition, ideas that are particularly prominent in Luke Jerram’s beautiful but dangerous glass microbes.

Glass has the capacity to render potentially ugly subjects as aesthetically beautiful objects: Mona Hatoum’s work in glass involves motifs of abjection or destruction that become deeply aesthetically pleasing when produced in glass. Subverting the decorative properties of glass – the ‘kitsch’ of traditional Murano decorative finishes, for example – can also be seen in recent work by Hew Locke and the De La Torre Brothers, which reflect upon issues of race and identity while rendering the decorative as grotesque. A disruptive approach to the everyday uses of glass, such as bottles and windows, can be seen in work by Claire Falkenstein and Joseph Kosuth in the exhibition.

Hew Locke, Mumm’s Little Soldier 2013. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates © Hew Locke. All Rights reserved, DACS 2021

The exhibition will also explore some of the collaborations between artists and master glassmakers that are key to many examples of glass sculpture, collaborations which are encapsulated in many of the works generously loaned by the National Glass Centre in Sunderland. Although a number of sculptors specialise in working with glass, more frequently artists turn to the skills and expertise of professionals in order to realise sculpture in glass. The exhibition will celebrate the input of skilled fabricators as well as the creativity of artists, and will demonstrate that glass is an infinitely variable material, used in imaginative and subversive ways by a diverse range of artists.

List of exhibiting artists:

Solid (cast, moulded, lamp-worked and rolled glass). Featured artists working with solid glass include:

  • Erwin Elsch
  • Luke Jerram
  • Joseph Kosuth
  • Silvia Levenson
  • Bruce McLean
  • Alena Matějka
  • Elliot Walker (winner of Netflix’s Blown Away)

Microsoft Word – A State of Matter press release .docx

Liquid (melted, poured, dripped or stretched glass). Featured artists working with liquid glass include:

  • Alexandra Engelfriet
  • Claire Falkenstein
  • Petr Stanicky

Gas (blown glass). Featured artists working with blown glass include:

  • The De La Torre Brothers
  • Maria Bang Espersen
  • Mona Hatoum
  • Hew Locke
  • Nicholas Pope Emma Woffenden

For more information about the exhibition, visit www.henry-moore.org/visit/henry-moore-institute

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