The Corning Museum of Glass has named Thaddeus Wolfe, a Brooklyn-based American artist known for colorful, multi-layered, highly-textured mold-blown vessels, as the recipient of the Rakow Commission in 2016.
Situated at the nexus between art, design, and craft, Wolfe’s objects are refined explorations of the possibilities and applications of mold-blown glass, a technique with origins in ancient Rome. Employing new materials and aesthetics, Wolfe mines this ancient technique to create objects that appear futuristic and otherworldly.
“I think of my work as being composed of imagined crystalline forms and architectural structures made in blown/cast-glass objects,” said Wolfe. “The pieces utilize formal elements of color, texture, pattern and smoothly polished surfaces to create a specific expressive, dystopian visual language.”
With hard edges, detailed surfaces, and blocky, cantilevered forms, each of Wolfe’s pieces is a challenge to standard applications of mold-blowing and to the symmetric concentricity typical of blown glass. “Wolfe’s innovative take on the traditions of glassblowing demonstrate the vitality of contemporary glass, connecting it to the historical continuum while charting a new course for the future,” said Susie Silbert, curator of modern and contemporary glass. “Wolfe’s ability to combine high-level craftsmanship and technical expertise with a progressive aesthetic sensibility is emblematic of cutting edge developments in studio-produced blown glass. In a time where many of his peers are moving away from traditional forms in favor of installation and video and are supplanting glassblowing with alternate fabrication methods, Wolfe has succeeded in producing fresh, forward looking, blown glass vessels that build on the past to create the future.”
Wolfe’s update to mold-blown vessels extends beyond his striking forms to his interpretation of the mold-bowing process itself. Where industrial and production glassblowers employ molds that can be used over and over again to create the same form—as in beer bottles—Wolfe’s vessels are made with one-time use plaster silica molds cast over carved Styrofoam positives. These highly individualized molds enable Wolfe to force the glass into structured geometries that are at odds with the fluid nature of molten glass.
Contorting the glass in this way requires impeccable timing, the ability to manage exceptionally hot glass, and an advanced understanding of glass’s movement when trapped in the negative space of a mold. Having honed these techniques, Wolfe is now looking to apply them to larger scale works, which present a host of new technical hurdles and design challenges. Wolfe’s response to the Rakow Commission, which will be unveiled at the Museum on November 10, 2016, will embody his considered solutions to the technical issues of form and color density that arise when creating angular, mold-blown vessels on a large-scale.
“It is truly an honor to be awarded the Rakow Commission by The Corning Museum of Glass,” said Wolfe. “As a glass artist, it means so much to me to have a piece in the collection of this amazing institution, and being awarded the commission has given me a unique opportunity to develop my work in a new way.”
Born and raised in the glass-rich culture of Toledo, Ohio, Wolfe studied glass at the Cleveland Institute of Art, graduating with a BFA in 2002. Wolfe has held residencies at Pilchuck Glass School (Stanwood, WA), Creative Glass Center of America’s Wheaton Village (Millville, NJ), and the Museum of Glass (Tacoma, WA). After apprenticing with severable notable glass artists including Jeff Zimmerman and Josiah McElheny, he established his own studio practice in 2009. He is represented by R+Company in New York City and Volume gallery in Chicago. In addition to several private collections, his work is held by the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
About the Rakow Commission
Inaugurated in 1986, the Rakow Commission is awarded annually to artists whose work is not yet represented in the Museum’s collection. The commission supports new works of art in glass by encouraging emerging or established artists to venture into new areas that they might otherwise be unable to explore because of financial limitations. It is made possible through the generosity of the late Dr. and Mrs. Leonard S. Rakow, Fellows, friends, and benefactors of the Museum. Each commissioned work is added to the Museum’s permanent collection and is displayed publicly in the Museum’s Contemporary Art + Design Galleries.