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A Collector's Living Room: Honoring Richard and Louise Abrahams

  • Cast glass Sculpture

    Untitled, Colin Reid, Cast glass, n.d., Gift of Richard and Louise Abrahams, Photograph by Kip Kriigel

  • Oscar Lakeman Acrylic painting

    Untitled, Scott Gamble, Glass, n.d., Gift of Richard and Louise Abrahams, Photograph by Kip Kriigel

  • Untitled etched glass art piece

    Eggplant Scent Bottle #30200, Nick Mount, Blown glass, n.d., Gift of Richard and Louise Abrahams, Photograph by Kip Kriigel

Glass as a material for contemporary art is like no other. Artists revel in its unique ability to change color and to hold and reflect light. Glass art can be opaque or translucent, solid or hollow, curvy and smooth, simple, solid and geometric, or fragile and decorative. Glass is a medium suited for true artistic experimentation and expression.

The University of Michigan-Dearborn is fortunate to be located within one of the most important regions in the country for glass art. The high concentration of glass studios, galleries, museums, and artists in the area is reflected in the university’s prized permanent glass collection.

The birthplace of the American studio glass movement is located a short distance away in Toledo, Ohio. It all started in 1962 at the Toledo Museum of Art with two glass workshops held and taught by Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino. These two innovators introduced the first small glass furnace that made it possible for artists to create glass art in their home studios. This was the beginning of a major shift for many glass artists from producing utilitarian pieces in factories to a world of endless creative possibilities for making glass art in independent studios. In 1963, Littleton introduced the first university program for glass in the United States at the University of Wisconsin.

My aim has been to demonstrate that the modern potter, artist-craftsman, teacher, could easily learn the skills of working with hot glass, develop equipment, and develop techniques for working alone….. and further, that there were unique possibilities for aesthetic expression in this material that were beyond the limits of economic industrial production. ---Harvey Littleton

The studio glass movement quickly spread to the surrounding states and, by the 1980s, UM-Dearborn had decided to make studio glass a major collecting focus.

Richard and Louise Abrahams purchased their first piece of glass, Taketori Tale by Kyohei Fujita, after falling in love with the medium at the 1997 SOFA (Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design) exhibition. For many years after, the Abrahams travelled the world and built the extraordinary, international studio glass collection which is partly on view in this exhibition. The couple collected pieces from all over the United States and many other countries including Australia, Denmark, and Scotland. When they first met, Richard and Louise found their tastes in painting to be quite different. However, they shared a passion for glass.

We decided early on in our collecting that we both had to love the piece before we could buy it. We also tried not to have more than two from any artist. We definitely could be called glassaholics. It’s similar to going into a candy store and saying I would like one of these and one of those, etc. The artists and gallery owners are very special people and became great friends. ---Louise Abrahams

Joe Marks, the former curator for the Alfred Berkowitz Gallery, built a strong friendship with Richard and Louise over many years and was integral in the development of the university’s glass collection.

When I first met Richard and Louise Abrahams at a glass conference in New Jersey, I realized they both had a passion for studio glass. Later, when I visited their Chicago area home, I was amazed at the scope of their collection. The Abrahams educated themselves about studio glass by visiting artists and galleries, both in the U.S. and abroad, and by attending numerous conferences and meetings with other glass collectors. The university is quite fortunate to have acquired this wonderful collection. ---Joe Marks

This exhibition highlights only a portion of the remarkable studio glass collection that has been gifted to the university by Richard and Louise Abrahams. It is intended to honor their significant contribution and provide the viewer with a rare glimpse into the living room of a private collector. Sonja Blomdahl, Lucio Bubacco, Ben Edols, Kathy Elliott, Petr Hora, Janet Kelman, Harvey Littleton, Colin Reid, and Richard Ritter are just a few of the world-renowned glass artists highlighted in the exhibition. It is a pleasure to share these treasured works with the campus and greater community.

Featured University Art Collection Piece

Featured collection glass artwork

Prisoner of Continuity, Scott Chaseling (b. 1962), blown, fused glass, n.d.
Gift of Richard and Louise Abrahams, Collection of UM-Dearborn (2014.1.8),
Photograph by Kip Kriigel

Australian glass artist Scott Chaseling (b. 1962) attended the Australian National University's Canberra School of Art in 1995. In a collaborative project with fellow glass artist Klaus Moje, the two artists invented the Australian Roll-Up technique. Their process is quite similar to the traditional Venetian murrini cane pick-up method with one major difference. Chaseling and Moje's concept involves picking up pre-fused panels of glass. This innovative approach allows artists to create carefully controlled designs that are not possible with traditional glassblowing methods. The pre-fused sheets of glass allow varying interior and exterior imagery, precise color placement, and full cross-sections of color, all seen in the skillful craftsmanship of this piece. After picking up the pre-fused panels on a punty, a glass blowing pipe, the final steps to the Australian Roll-Up technique consist of blowing, rolling and manipulating the glass form into a finished standing vessel shape.

---Laura Cotton, Art Curator and Gallery Manager

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  • 4901 Evergreen Road, Dearborn, MI 48128
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