“Among twentieth century artists, František Vízner has practically defined the meaning of Classicism as it applies to work in glass, a medium much prone to exaggeration and Baroque affectation. Beginning in Czechoslovakia in the 1960’s and continuing to the very end of his life, he worked to create a series of vessels that are among the most perfect objects ever made by human hands.”
William Warmus - art critic, curator and author
František Vízner (1936-2011) was the great minimalist in Czech glass art. While still a student he perfected a technique of cut glass and a sense of form that has sustained him throughout a distinguished career of some fifty years. His training was lengthy and rigorous, first at the specialised Schools of Glassmaking, followed by six years .....
František Vízner (1936-2011) was the great minimalist in Czech glass art. While still a student he perfected a technique of cut glass and a sense of form that has sustained him throughout a distinguished career of some fifty years. His training was lengthy and rigorous, first at the specialised Schools of Glassmaking, followed by six years of study at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague. In his graduation year of 1962, Vízner emerged from his studies with a group of glass vessels that set a course for his future quest. He was among that early cohort of students newly emerging at a time when glass was especially promoted as an art-material as well as a utilitarian one, then a vital facet to the country’s economy and identity. For Vízner, the vessel was to be more than sufficient as a vehicle for personal expression. His graduation work explored smoothly rounded cubes and rectangles and even in this, his earliest work, it was clear that he was thinking about making a related set of forms, in which each element had its own character but all came together to form a whole new concept. This group is still seen as a key moment in post-war Czech modernism, the philosophical and stylistic movement that grew from a functionalism rooted in the avant-garde design of the 1930’s. Then practical, restrained and elegant shapes became part of the lexicon and, in the hands of Vízner, they were again a potent force in the 1960’s.
His first employment was in designing for a demanding and competitive commercial industry at various glass factories to make inexpensive glasswares for machine production. Since his natural inclination was for unembellished shapes and precise technical requirements, he was perfectly suited to produce designs for useful wares that could be made by both pressed and blown glass methods, in which the Czechoslovak glassworks specialised. It was the next step towards a lifelong dedication to the exploration of minimalist form. For Vízner the transformation of the bowl into an art object was inexorable. Nevertheless, he always said that utilitarian objects are the key to his work. He quoted the basket and the jug as everyday objects and familiar articles in any household, perhaps the first objects known to a human kind along with the cup, bowl or plate. An art object may be the result, but its essence and origin in these modest, essential forms, is always apparent in his glass. His vases and bowls from this era are now considered some of the best examples of Czech design.
Vízner is, however, best known for his elegant minimalist glass sculptures in classical monochromatic forms – bowls, plates, columns and cubic objects – which masterly explore the relationship between material, form, and light. In 1977, Vízner set up his own atelier. By then he was well respected and becoming an important figure internationally. His first exhibition abroad was in Paris, followed by galleries in Zurich, Vienna and, in 1988, in New York – a moment that catapulted his talent into the global spotlight.
He had been briskly unappreciative of what he regarded as the further reaches of excessive artistic expression especially in the early 1980’s. Then he said “The vessel always was and will remain my positive destiny in glass. Artistic fantasy is given as an excuse for everything. The vessel presents a frightening and at the same time beautiful limitation of functions. I like handicraft and I like beautiful objects.” To the rest of his career, this credo underpinned Vízner’s commitment to pure form.
Probably his best known form is the bowl with a single, central point. First made in 1971 this classic had been a life-long preoccupation. Variations on it were the result of careful consideration and the introduction of new colours. Vízner was never precipitate and each new form carries the same message of very precise thinking and intellectual restraint. There were never any ill-judged moves. Uniquely, he had achieved, repeatedly again and again, a finely undulating landscape over which flows a silky, matt surface. Thus he blended a highly sensitive manipulation of light and delicate colour with perfectly sculpted forms. Transparency in its usual manifestations held no interest for him. But the glowing edges and the body of his glass have an intense, interior light, a life unmatched by any other artist.
Technique was vital too, and a deep understanding of the material. While his contemporaries in Czechoslovakia specialised in precision-cut, geometric, prismatic glass or in melted glass, freely formed and sometimes painted, sculptures, Vízner steadfastly stayed with the vessel and mastered the technique of cut glass. Transforming a solid glass block into the springy, light-transforming object that is, typically, Vízner’s sculpture, had been one of his special skills. This practice was very similar to the ancient technique of marble sculpture making. He worked in complete solitude in his studio, using special glass making tools and an old fashioned grindstone. He cut, drilled and worked the glass into the sensuous, rhythmic contours. The surface was then acid-etched to a matt finish, or, on the contrary, polished to a super shine.
Clearly, Vízner was a solitary figure among glassmakers, a representative of seldom seen minimalism and concentrated development of a single theme. Throughout his career he channelled his energy to the creation of harmonious geometric objects instilled with internal tension. While his pieces are based on the shapes of functional bowls and plates, we understand their pure and simple volumes better as non-functional, sculptural forms. These timeless, minimalist creations demonstrate Vízner’s attention to proportion, admiration of glass material and, above all, high quality craftwork. No individual detail is allowed to interrupt the harmony and rationality of his objects. His work conceals passion, which he only gradually reveals. It seems explicable that the individual artefacts derived from the simplest shapes are in the final analysis the outcome of a slow, precise manual labour and not that of intelligent computer-controlled technologies.
Together with the pair Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová, Vízner ranks among the top glass sculptors not only in the Czech Republic but also worldwide. In 2013, the prestigious journal Glass: The Urban Glass Art Quarterly placed Vízner in top ten on the list of fifty most influential glass artists of all times. His works are represented in the leading private and public collections such as the Corning Museum of Glass, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Museum of Decorative Arts, Louvre in Paris, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo and many others.
“To me, perfection means awareness and acceptance of ones limitations. I want to be limited by the qualities of the material I work with; by the tools I use; by my own hands… to consciously reject a certain colour, shape, word and sound… to know what exactly I want to achieve and what I don’t want to do. Solitude, concentration and stubbornness lead me on the way to perfection.”
Thank you for joining us!
Thank you for celebrating the first annual
Glass Art Fair!
We are honored to that you have taken the time to join us in a celebration of art.
The artists in this exhibition are sharing their work from around the world.