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Richard Jolley: Sculptor of Glass

June 4 - September 24, 2004

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is pleased to present Richard Jolley: Sculptor of Glass, featuring the bold and intricate work of acclaimed artist Richard Jolley. On display from June 4 to September 24, 2004, this exhibition offers a comprehensive look at the career of one of the country's leading glass sculptors, examining his innovations and influences in the field.

Richard Jolley: Sculptor of Glass is the first traveling exhibition to visit the Ogden Museum since its opening in August 2003. Co-curated by the Ogden Museum of Southern Art's Director, J. Richard Gruber, working with Stephen Wicks, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions for the Knoxville Museum of Art, the exhibition first debuted in Jolley's home state of Tennessee at the Knoxville Museum of Art from December 6, 2002 - March 2, 2003, before beginning a national tour.

Accompanying the exhibition is the catalogue, Richard Jolley: Sculptor of Glass, featuring a comprehensive essay by Gruber. Since its introduction, a major monograph on Richard Jolley was published in 2003 by noted historian Sam Hunter.

"Jolley views himself as an artist who works in glass, not as a 'glass artist.' For him, the distinction is a critical one," says Gruber. The wide-ranging approach to the use of materials and styles evident in the work of Jolley reflects the artist's sense of independence.

"This independence is also reflected in his decision to work in Knoxville, away from urban art centers and the Northwestern studio glass environment associated with Dale Chihuly and the Pilchuck School," wrote Gruber in the catalogue's essay. "He chooses to work in the mountains of Tennessee, informed by the Appalachian culture and history, the traditions of the Penland School, and the evolving urban and suburban realities of the contemporary South. He seems to maintain a path of exploration that seeks to balance the modern and the traditional, the creative and the technological."

The Evolution of an Artist

Jolley spent much of his childhood in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and became fascinated with sculpting glass while a student at Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tennessee. He began working with glass in 1971, intrigued from the start by the possibilities of a material that in America had recently begun to emerge as a fresh medium. Jolley turned to glass for what he saw as its wide-open potential. He became a studio major in glass, working in the early "hot shops" at Tusculum College, then Vanderbilt's George Peabody College, where he helped to build the first glass studio. Since 1975, he has maintained a studio in West Knoxville.

Over the course of his nearly 30-year career, Jolley has produced a remarkable body of sculpture that explores the human figure, its timeless beauty, and expressive potential. Richard Jolley: Sculptor of Glass chronicles the dynamic evolution of his art over much of the past two decades. The original exhibition included 48 objects from 1984 through the artist's Tabula Rasa series, begun in 2001. Many of these works were never before seen by the public when the show debuted in Tennessee.

Richard Jolley: Sculptor of Glass will expand by design when unveiled at the Ogden Museum, as Gruber and the artist will incorporate into the exhibition new works by Jolley since 2002, curated by Gruber.

"Richard continues to explore important new directions in his work in glass, steel and monotypes," says Gruber. "It is a true study in the evolution of the artist and the creativity of the artistic process, as he responds to his own exhibition in creating new and exciting work over the past 15 months."

While the exhibition focuses on Jolley's work in glass, offering a vast survey of the artist's classically-inspired, figurative glass sculptures, it also looks at his achievements in other materials, including monoprints, woodcuts, works on paper, and bronze. Included in the exhibition are Jolley's mixed-media works, revealing a continuation of the artist's interest in experimentation. These stand as a powerful counterpoint to the boldly modeled glass sculptures for which Jolley has become known.

As an artist, Jolley is known for his symbolic and visual glass sculptures that engage the mind while captivating the eye with rich colors, sensuality, irony and unique textures. Throughout his career he has studied the medium of glass in a multiplicity of forms, making pieces ranging from blown vessels to complex structures. His innovative approach to art has resulted in new techniques and forms that are unlike anything that has been done in the field. In particular, his development of modeling hot glass, a process that has become his trademark has fueled his reputation, producing provocative pieces that are liquid and lush.

The retrospective explores Jolley's breakthrough technique of modeling hot glass in his work from the 1980s. Using a propane torch, the artist melted colored canes or threads of glass and applied them to clear glass pieces, producing fluid imageries reminiscent of Matisse. During the same period, Jolley also produced an enchanting series of simply modeled nudes, in which a flowing blue line on a translucent ground defines the essentials of face and form.

The exhibition follows Jolley's work into the 1990s, showing his move towards stark monochromatic busts that later developed into large torsos enlivened by gesturing arms and hands. From there, Jolley's work evolves into his groundbreaking totem series in the 1990s, with pieces incorporating many of his signature elements - heads, busts, torsos, and animals. In his series, Tabula Rasa (Latin for blank slate), Jolley experiments with spontaneous free forms, allowing his art to lead him to new avenues.

"It's always a matter of pushing the boundaries, of stretching the limits," explains Jolley. "The ideal is to transcend technology with the statement, to move beyond the materials and the process. What I am trying to do is achieve humanistic art."

Richard Jolley,
Taking Time,