Gallery News

Tacoma News Tribune, 03.16.2008

Marioni’s glass gives museum tony twofer

By Rosemary Ponnekanti

ext to the awe-filled expanse of Lino Tagliapietra’s retrospective, the collection of Dante Marioni glass looks small. Yet “Dante Marioni: Form, Color, Pattern” is not, in fact, an inferior exhibition. Tagliapietra, 73, has been blowing glass almost his entire life, moving through a stunningly wide variety of techniques and styles. Marioni’s only 44 but has a distinctive voice.

The two exhibitions at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass pair well together – the similar Venetian opulence, the fact that Marioni learned a lot of his art from Tagliapietra – yet Marioni’s solo show stands eloquently on its own.

As a Seattle-based artist and son of Northwest glass artist Paul Marioni, Dante Marioni’s work is well-known around here. He exhibits regularly at Traver Gallery and blows in the Museum of Glass Hot Shop, so nothing is really a surprise in this show. Organized by his own studio, and later touring to Michigan and Texas, the show is a collection of around 20 works from the last two decades.

The long, tall vessels are there, as are the vibrant, almost primary colors and the signature curvy handles.

What’s interesting about the show is comparison: The subtle changes in Marioni’s work over the last 10 years, and – a rare opportunity – the influences of and departures from the work of his mentor Tagliapietra.

Take the reticello work. This technique of embedding a pattern of glass canes into a vessel is a Venetian technique hundreds of years old, and each artist uses it differently.

While Tagliapietra creates solidity with opaque glass, Marioni’s typical Northwest shininess combines with transparent glass for a dizzying effect: His black canes crisscross over the rounded, tapered vessel to create an illusion of movement, the diagonals rippling up and down as the viewer shifts position. His Acorns, made in the last few years, play with this effect as the diamond-pattern reticello morphs into waves, cross-hatches and stripes. Laid on their sides like large glass bells, the Acorns cast intricately fused shadows, which rest calmly in counterpoint to the shimmering illusion inside the glass.

Then there are the goblets – Marioni’s signature work. Like Tagliapietra’s, they’re highly individualistic, highly wrought. But that’s where the similarity ends.

While the Venetian’s work is thinly fragile, translucently pastel and baroquely ornate, Marioni has developed a vocabulary of almost Mannerist vessels, their colors bold, their handles quirky and highly non-functional. This is, in fact, where Marioni’s strength lies: in the multiplicity of a single image, of a cornucopia of spikes, horns, gumballs, curlicues, rims and pimples that adorn a symmetrical array of vessels singing the same harmony.

It’s also interesting to compare Marioni to himself. Large vases that in the late ’90s were chunky and round become, by 2006, slender and elongated. A 1998 mosaic vase is vibrant with alternating squares of poppy-red and gold, with blue trim; by 2006, the mosaic vases are calmer, more homogenous, with white circles repeating on a royal blue background.

Marioni is one of the best glass artists in the world, and we’re lucky we get to see so much of his work in the Northwest. But there’s nothing like context, and the next-door Tagliapietra show highlights both Marioni’s streamlined palette and his dynamism.

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568

What: “Dante Marioni: Form, Color, Pattern”

Who: Museum of Glass

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. third Thursdays, noon-5 p.m. Sundays, through Aug. 31

Where: 180 Dock St., Tacoma

Admission: $10, $8, $4; free for younger than 6; free on third Thursdays from 5-8 p.m.

Information: 1-866-4MUSEUM, 253-284-4750,

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