Suzanne Lovell Inc


Alison Berger: Memories Captured in Glass

September 14, 2017

Alison Berger Glassworks, Still Life of objects and vessels. Image courtesy of Alison Berger Glassworks.

“My work is about illusion and allusion, the play of light and shadow, the mystery and resonance of time. Glass captures the process of remembering and, as the light fades, forgetting. Light is my medium, glass my material, and memory – elusive as it is – my theme.” [Alison Berger]

Alison Berger in her shop creating pendant lights. Image courtesy of Alison Berger Glassworks.

Alison Berger, a Dallas native, was captivated with glassblowing from a young age. As a teenager Berger was drawn to a local shop in her neighborhood and ritually observed the process from afar. After making herself a regular fixture and peering through the fence in the alley, the workers invited her inside for a closer look at the process. This personal experience clearly ignited a curiosity and passion within Berger.

Alison Berger Glassworks, Beacon pendant light. Image courtesy of Alison Berger Glassworks.

Berger candidly explained the glassblowing process to the L. A. Times comparing it to the highly coordinated process to “jumping off a diving board, catching a ball, and throwing it to someone before you hit the water. There is an incredible precision, timing, and choreography involved in glass-making.”

Alison Berger Glassworks, Pully Pendant Light Form Study. Image courtesy of Alison Berger Glassworks.

All of her educational endeavors influenced and informed her return to glass making: Berger studied anthropology at University of Colorado, received her BFA from RISD in 1987, Berger then pursued architecture at Columbia University. As noted in Forbes, Berger was a practicing architect in Frank Gehry’s studio before settling in Los Angeles as an “architectural consultant” to the film industry.

In 1994 Alison Berger Glassworks was established. Since its inception Berger always conceived her creations with great design and architectural detailing.

Alison Berger Glassworks, Balance Line Collection. Image courtesy of Alison Berger Glassworks.

Berger was the first American artist commissioned by Hermés. For Hermés Berger designed the Balance Line Collection. Berger cleverly reinterpreted the original slogan of Hermés from, “Only the horse knows how the saddle fits,” to “Only the hand knows how the object feels.”

Alison Berger Glassworks. From the Balance Line Collection. Image courtesy of Alison Berger Glassworks.

With this in mind, Berger set out to design an object that was both purposeful and as timeless as a family heirloom. An especially remarkable detail as noted by Forbes, Hermés permitted Berger to sign each piece next to the Hermés signature which is typically not allowed on commissions.

Additionally, Alison Berger was among an exclusive set of artists commissioned by Rei Kawakubo, founder of Comme des Garҫon, to create an architectural installation at the company’s flagship showroom in Tokyo.

Alison Berger Glassworks, Firefly pendant light. Image courtesy of Alison Berger Glassworks.

When making her foray into lighting, Berger drew upon her childhood memories from Dallas. Her memory of catching fireflies during twilight and the light emitted while inside Mason jars dreamily served as inspiration for her Firefly pendant light.

Alison Berger Glassworks, Firefly pendant inspiration. Image and details courtesy of Alison Berger Glassworks.

Alison Berger Glassworks continues to create and reinvent objects, with a particular fondness for those from the 1600s and 1700s. When Berger comes across an object, she first considers its role and function during its original time period. Then, Berger imagines how her own version of the object would add another dimension to the object’s history.

For Berger, this process of re-imagining objects in glass allows them to feel both old-world and contemporary. This persistent curiosity of Berger’s to learn and then reinvent is all part of her creation process.

Another curious example of Berger’s unique ability to question and reinvent is illustrated in her Bar Set Series. As Berger explains in her book, Alison Berger: Glass and Light, Berger created a bar set in which scale is relative to the potency of the contents.

The smaller the bottle, the stronger the potency. The design of the Bar Set Series is in direct response to the similarity in size and design that seemingly all liquor bottles share. As Berger points out, different liquors affect the mind and body differently, therefore each vessel should be unique according to its contents.

Alison Berger Glassworks, Bar Set Series. Image and details courtesy of Alison Berger Glassworks.

Berger’s architectural precision and artistic approach have served her well. The Corning Museum of Glass has three of Berger’s creations in its collection. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York,  The Un-Private House, and the Cooper-Hewitt in New York to name a few.

In 1998 Alison Berger Glassworks began to sell various lighting designs through Holly Hunt showrooms. Berger and her dedicated team feature their creations on Instagram and recently received the Elle Decor International Design Award for lighting.

According to the Cooper-Hewitt, about 40% of Berger’s work are commissioned pieces which Berger showcases on her website and in her book, published just over one year ago.

Alison Berger Glassworks, Glass Slide Chandelier commission. Image courtesy of Alison Berger Glassworks.

For Berger and her team, these commissions for private clients or public institutions provide the perfect opportunities to push her creative artistic and architectural boundaries. With each commission comes unique site and scale requirements.

And for the naturally curious Berger, these commissions present an occasion for Berger to reflect on the client’s own history where Berger can re-imagine and add another layer to the narrative.

Alison Berger Glassworks. Astrolabe installation view at night, 8′ in diameter with bronze concentric rings descending in scale, suspended from a 25′ ceiling. Image and details courtesy of Alison Berger Glassworks.

When our team visited Alison’s Los Angeles studio in July, Suzanne Lovell was keenly impressed with Alison Berger and her studio. Meeting Alison was such a remarkable experience. We are thrilled to have the opportunity of working with Alison to create a unique commission for one of our extraordinary clients.

Berger’s meticulous process and innate desire to reinvent objects with her elegant designs only reinforced our admiration for her creativity and process.

We are eager to see her take on Camera Obscura which we saw during our studio visit and discussed in great detail. Camera Obscura will undoubtedly be showstopper at EXPO!

Alison Berger Glassworks, Three-Dimensional Study of commissioned piece Camera Obscura. 6′ wide and multilple glass lenses. Image courtesy of Alison Berger Glassworks.

We are very intrigued to see her new Vertical Shroud in person. As Berger coyly mentioned in her Instagram post over the weekend, the Vertical Shroud marks a new direction of the many concepts Alison Berger Glassworks has in development.

The Vertical Shroud will be exhibited at EXPO CHICAGO, represented by Edward Cella Art & Architecture at booth 724.

We are enthusiastically looking forward to working with Alison and her studio and are delighted to host such a visionary talent at EXPO CHICAGO!

A preview image of The Vertical Shroud by Alison Berger Glassworks shared via Instagram.

EXPO CHICAGO begins Wednesday, September 13th, with a Nick Cave and Jeanne Gang performance titled Here Hear Chicago during Vernissage and opens to the public Thursday, September 14th.

Read last week’s post for EXPO highlights and be sure to follow us on Instagram for updates as we attend what is sure to be an incredible start to the fall art season!