Dante Marioni

Bullseye Gallery, Portland, OR

by Richard Speer

       For artists who work in glass, divergences between the techniques and temperaments required for blowing, fusing, and kilncasting can be as wide as the divides between drawing, painting, and sculpture.  While blowing is a ruggedly physical and time-limited pursuit in which split-second decisions radically affect outcomes, coldworking generally affords a more deliberative approach.  Amphibious pivoting between techniques is uncommon.

Inveterate glass blower Dante Marioni’s exhibition, Variations, was therefore all the more striking for its assured commingling of blowing, fusing, and kilncasting.  The Seattle-based sculptor, now midcareer, included as points of reference several of the elegant vessel forms that have defined his style since his ascendancy as a wunderkind during the 1980s:  pear-shaped vases such as Green Gum Tree Leaf; graceful, Empire-waisted études such as Green Parquet Mosaic, and long-lined, thin-necked forms such as Standing Leaf with Red Stripe and Standing Reticello Leaf, which obliquely channel the elongated figures of El Greco and Giacometti.

The artist displayed a more whimsical side in the curio-cabinet Red Vessel Display and Orange Box with Blue Vessels.  Eccentrically formed and brazenly Crayola-hued, they played matte surfaces against grotesque protuberances that sprouted from the shapes like quills, spines, and sea grasses.  Marioni departed from the vessel form altogether in the kilnformed triptych Clouds, the honey-yellow Bee Hive, and the blown-glass Chrome Poppy, which, with its suave, mirrored sheen, resembled an outsized Art Deco lavalier.  Two wall-mounted works, Yellow Mosaic Mirror Circle and Red Mosaic Arch Mirror, were encased in gleaming, wide-brimmed metal frameworks, imparting the look of medieval armor.  The silvered, honeycombed glass inside them gave the viewer the impression of gazing into an elaborate, fractured mirror.  In these and other works throughout the exhibition, Marioni married a Bach-like capacity for invention and rigor with a Mozartean sense of play, demonstrating just how far and how innovatively he has forayed into territory not native to his early glass-blowing renown. 


—Richard Speer