Glass, composed of sand, ash, and limestone, had something of a heyday during the Middle Ages on the Venetian island of Murano; its origins, however, and the dissemination of glassmaking techniques, can be traced as far back as the third millenium BC, to territories in the Middle East. Glassblowing, a critical innovation, emerged later in Syria during the 1st century BC, and quickly spread to the Roman Empire, where the practice thrived and disseminated across the European continent. This cross-cultural dialogue informs the glass sculptures of Hiroshi Yamano, a Japanese artist who spent much of his formative years in the United States and Europe; he was first inspired to work with glass after seeing an exhibition of Scandinavian glass. As a student, Yamano encountered professors in the U.S. who encouraged innovation and risk-taking, while back in Japan he was taught that technical precision was of the utmost priority. As a result, his practice melds both values, and presents a dialogue between East and West.
After nearly 35 years of working with glass, Yamano has honed a masterful talent for manipulating the material, finding inspiration in his experiences; he explains, “The memories I have from my experiences are my most important treasures. To keep finding my treasures, I have to keep swimming the world like a fish swimming in the waters.” Drawing from the imagery commonly employed in Japanese screen printing, his “Scenes from Japan,” now on view at LewAllen Galleries, are elegant, delicate glass-blown and sculpted birds and fish that perch atop twigs and vessels. Pushing glassblowing beyond traditional forms, these works are created through Yamano’s innovative techniques; he begins with thickly blown forms that he then rolls in silver leaf and finishes with copper plating. His execution, precise and exacting, achieves shapes, colors, and compositions not usually associated with glass, challenging the medium’s traditional translucent and fragile properties. Through these diorama-like sculptures, Yamano conveys a spirited regard for cultural values, fine craftsmanship, and creativity.
“Hiroshi Yamano: Scenes from Japan” is on view at LewAllen Galleries, Scottsdale, Arizona, Mar. 20th–Apr. 26th, 2014.