Sandy Sardella's swank Pismo Fine Art Glass (2770 East Second Avenue, 303-333-2879) in Cherry Creek North is unique among Denver galleries because of its specialty. With an exhibition space as nice as any around, Sardella is able to give glass artists the same opportunity for proper exhibitions as is ordinarily afforded only to sculptors or painters. Last summer Pismo put on an impressive Dale Chihuly show, and now another museum-quality offering is there: Lino Tagliapietra: il Mito e la Materia (Myth and Material).
Tagliapietra is a giant in contemporary glass, known the world over. The leading tradition in glass is the one that comes out of the Venetian island of Murano, where Tagliapietra was born in 1934. For the last thousand years, glass artists in Murano have pioneered one decorative technique after another, including bullicante (bubbles), tessuto (stripes) and pezzatto (patchwork). It was surely kismet that someone like Tagliapietra would have the luck to grow up around the glass industry.
He was a quick study, and at the age of twelve began an apprenticeship with the legendary Archimede Seguso. By the tender age of 22, Tagliapietra was a certified maestro. In the '50s, '60s and '70s, Tagliapietra worked as a glassblower and designer for a number of famous Venetian glass houses, notably Venini, the Ferrari of the field.
In 1988 he launched his own atelier, and the rest is decorative-art history. His earliest pieces have a Venini flair, but the more recent work at Pismo exemplifies a variety of inspiration. Tagliapietra explores many traditional techniques, but he puts them together in new ways and in his signature shapes.
The show includes a number of series, some of which have expected Italian names, such as "Gioia" and "Vittoria," while others have unexpected English ones, such as "Batman" and "Piccadilly." Arguably, the most impressive pieces at Pismo are from the "Masai" group (above), which respond formally to African spears. Mounted on metal brackets, they are attenuated vertical forms done in strong colors and with a wide array of techniques.
The stunning Lino Tagliapietra runs through March 10 at Pismo.