The Rakow Research Library is delighted to announce our first acquisition of performance art documentation in contemporary glass, with the addition of the B Team Records. In 2018, B Team founder Zesty Meyers gave his collected materials on the B Team to the Rakow Research Library, which included historical information about the team, notebooks showing the team’s development and performance ideas, promotional materials, tour materials, photographic materials, and videos. The collection is available for research, and videos have recently been digitized and uploaded to The Corning Museum of Glass YouTube channel. The donation also included several glass pieces, which are housed in the Museum’s collection.
The B Team was a groundbreaking, ever-evolving group of performance artists working with blown glass, who delighted in an unconventional and experimental approach to hot glass, and who had a desire to share their ideas with others. Team members challenged preconceived ideas on everything from the definition of art and glass to gender roles.
Susie Silbert, curator of modern and contemporary glass at The Corning Museum of Glass, explains, “For all of the time I have been in glass, the B Team has been lauded as an important progenitor of performance in glass. However, it was nearly impossible to access information about their work or see recordings of their performances. This archive changes that. I am thrilled at the research that will grow from this phenomenal resource.”
“An important progenitor of performance in glass.”Susie Silbert
Meyers formed the first iteration of the team, the Massachusetts College of Art Student Glass Tour, in 1991, as an undergraduate student in the glass department of the Massachusetts College of Art. His fellow student-artists brought different skills to the group, allowing the team to work with glass in a variety of ways. Their first tour of colleges was originally planned for one week, but extended into an exhausting three-week odyssey, and by the end, the group disbanded to pursue different options.
Undaunted, Meyers tried again the following year with the National Team Glass Tour. Understanding that the colleges they visited were unable to support an entire team of artists, they spent three months fundraising and planning, ultimately bringing their playful demonstrations, hands-on training, and lectures to ten glass programs in California. Following the tour’s end, Seattle Post Intelligencer critic Regina Hackett coined the “B Team” moniker, differentiating them from the skill-obsessed, object focused A-team of mainstream Studio Glass.
The team continued to evolve under their new name, and each year brought in innovative members with their own specialties, as former members moved on to different projects. This shifting brought continued vitality to the group, eventually leading to a greater emphasis on providing site-specific installations and large-scale performances.
At its height in the mid-to-late-1990s, the B Team’s performances were full productions. For instance, their 1996 performance Spontaneous Combustion, had a designer, a sound and music coordinator, Board of Directors, and numerous behind-the-scenes assistants. The performance included skits such as Fear Jar, in which audience members wrote their fears on slips of paper, which were then poured into a newly made and still hot jar. The jar was then sealed, setting the slips afire, thus symbolically burning up the fears. In another passage in the performance, a team member stood under an umbrella, while a second member drizzled molten glass on them from above.
In addition to performances, B Team installations included the 1995 The Five Senses Touch, exhibited in the Robert Lehman Gallery, 1996’s Sight, an installation of twenty cracked car windshields, shown in the Anthony Giordano Gallery at the Islip Art Museum in New York, and the 1997 Globfling, in which B Team members made glass targets, then made glass globs to fling at the targets, then displayed the results.
Despite their growing success, B Team members decided to disband in 1998 to focus on their individual careers. Before the end, however, this highly successful group received the BESSIE award from the Dance Theater Workshop, toured Japan, and in 1999, had a final exhibition, A False Perspective, shown at the New Museum for Contemporary Art in New York, and at the Grand Arts Center in Kansas City.