Varied, virtuosic and sumptuous beyond imagination, the work of Seattle-based sculptor Dante Marioni seems to come from another time—perhaps the Renaissance, when craftsmanship and invention were the fulcra upon which artists’ reputations were built. In the triumphant exhibition Variations, Marioni, best known for his work in blown glass, stretches his already formidable technique to include works in kilncast and fused glass. There are still plenty of the oversized vessels for which he made his name: the nearly 3-foot-tall Yellow Circle Mosaic and the graceful Standing Leaf With Red Stripe, with its crisscrossing “reticello” patterns all the way up and down the piece, an immaculate bubble in the center of each diamond. How can an object of such complex execution still create a silhouette of such simplicity? This is more the stuff of wizardry than of art.
Elsewhere, Marioni flexes new muscles. His mirrored wall pieces, one yellow and one red, have honeycomblike cutouts and are dramatically encased in steel, imparting a Gothic sinisterness. The red piece is displayed on the wall of an intimate domestic mise-en-scène, appointed with a settee, a glass stool (not designed by Marioni) and a side table bearing a gloriously bizarre piece called Chrome Poppy. This is one of the most jaw-dropping sculptures you are likely to lay eyes upon in the next 10 years. One part Wizard of Oz, one part art deco and one part Dorothy Draper, it is an object of uncommon assertiveness: preeningly macho in its technique but absolutely effete in the over-the-top preciousness of its ornamentation. As a whimsical coda, in his Red Vessel Display and Orange Box With Blue Vessels, the artist works with multiples, stocking curio shelves with 12 diminutive vessel forms apiece. Adorned with bulbous knobs, spines and cochlear curlicues the works evoke the serialism of Andy Warhol and the sheer silliness of Dr. Seuss.
Marioni was once a child prodigy who studied with Venetian master blower Lino Tagliapietra. Clearly, the 47-year-old Marioni is not coasting on his early precociousness. By extending his reach into diverse glass techniques, he pushes his own envelope. Anyone who works this vigorously with a material as fragile as glass, is by definition a risk-taker. In Variations, Marioni takes a big risk, and it pays off in spades.
SEE IT: Bullseye Gallery, 300 NW 13th Ave., 227-0222, bullseyegallery.com. Closes June 25.