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Norwood Viviano Exhibition

Artist Transforms Statistics into Blown-Glass Forms

NORFOLK, VA. (Jan. 14, 2016) — As the City of Norfolk and many of its leading arts and educational institutions focus their attention this winter on water and sea-level rise, the Chrysler Museum of Art presents an unexpected approach to these issues with Norwood Viviano—Cities: Departure and Deviation. The exhibition will be on view in the Chrysler's Glass Projects Gallery through July 31. Admission is free.

Composed in shades of white, black, and gray and hung evenly from the ceiling, Viviano's minimalist blown-glass forms depict the dynamic histories of urban America. Read as three-dimensional timelines, his glass diagrams explore 400 years of the rise and decline of key cities' industries and how fluctuations in manufacturing or business have prompted dramatic changes in their populations.

Each of Viviano's 25 hanging forms represents an American city. The length of each form depicts time, the width describes population density, and a shift in color indicates a period of significant change. The artist uses 3-D computer modeling to assist with the scaling, as one of the most technically challenging aspects of crafting the works is keeping the blown-glass forms proportional. Digital renderings on the wall alongside each glass form also give population statistics about each metropolis.

The installation, arranged alphabetically, enables visitors to compare the magnitude of cities as varied as New York (population 8.2 million) and Flint, Michigan (population 102,000) and to ponder their differences. As Viviano's works demonstrate, commercial growth has drawn together hordes of job seekers, sometimes creating cities where only towns had existed, while economic failures have emptied and devastated once-thriving communities.

Viewers can contrast the now-small Rust Belt cities that have experienced tremendous industrial decline (Flint and Youngstown) with major metropolitan centers where populations have fluctuated due to complex causes, including the rise and fall of commerce, race relations, suburban flight, and international migration.

Viviano earned degrees in fine arts and sculpture from Alfred University and Cranbrook Academy of Fine Arts. His works have recently been exhibited at the Smithsonian American Museum, Renwick Gallery, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and, in 2014, at the Palazzo Bembo, Venice Biennale.

As both an artist and an educator (he coordinates the sculpture program and teaches art and design at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan), Viviano embraces the process of data visualization, seeking new ways to express modes of information quickly. Most of his recent series and residencies—Global Cities, Mining Industries, Recasting Michigan, and Cities—have done so using art in a variety of media.

"By using molten glass, a material known for its warmth, fluidity, and ability to transform into nearly any shape, Norwood Viviano masterfully converts cold and rigid statistical data into a tranquil abstraction that also is a visual database," says Diane Wright, the Chrysler's Barry Curator of Glass and organizer of the exhibition. "Norwood says that he likes to use statistics as a tool to start conversations. By turning historical population data into sculpture, he hopes to promote dialogue about what can make a city thrive and what can cause it to fail."

To investigate how these questions apply locally, Viviano specially created the glass graph of Norfolk for this exhibition at the Chrysler. One of the oldest, thus longest, cities represented, Norfolk is also very thin and even, demonstrating slow and steady population growth with only recent decline.

"It's an eye-opening statement about the geographical, historical, and cultural factors affecting our locale over time," Wright says. "The work raises many questions about the city's past and future: What role have the region's key industries, such as international shipping and the U.S. Navy, played in Norfolk's success? What role will sea-level rise play in its future?"

The latter concern, especially key to Norfolk's future, led the Chrysler Museum of Art to partner with Old Dominion University to host the annual Adaptation Forum. The mid-February symposium will foster dialogue about sea-level rise, how it impacts Hampton Roads, and what roles cultural institutions can play in educating the public about this crucial topic. Invitees include visual and performing artists, scientists, environmental activists, city and regional planners, educators, and students. They will join at the Museum to discuss how best to communicate complex information to the public in compelling, but scientifically accurate, ways. Norwood Viviano, as our special guest artist-educator, will help participants consider how they might collaborate and share resources to educate and engage our community.



The Chrysler Museum of Art is one of America's most distinguished mid-sized art museums, with a nationally recognized collection of more than 30,000 objects, including one of the great glass collections in America. The core of the Chrysler's collection was given to the Museum by Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., an avid art collector who donated thousands of objects from his private collection to the Museum. In the years since Chrysler's death in 1988, the Museum has dramatically enhanced its collection and extended its ties with the Norfolk community. The Museum, renovated in 2014 to add additional gallery spaces and amenities for visitors, now has growing collections, especially of American art, contemporary glass, and 21st-century works. The Chrysler also mounts an ambitious schedule of visiting exhibitions, educational programs and events each season.

In 2011, the Chrysler opened a full-service glass Studio adjacent to the Museum. This state-of-the-art facility features a 560-pound capacity glass furnace, a full hot shop, a flameworking studio, nine annealing ovens, and a coldworking shop. In addition, the Chrysler Museum of Art administers two historic houses in downtown Norfolk: the Moses Myers House and the Willoughby-Baylor House.

The Chrysler Museum of Art, One Memorial Place, Norfolk, and its Perry Glass Studio at 745 Duke St., are open to the public Tuesday through Sunday. The Historic Houses on East Freemason Street are open weekends. General admission is free at all venues.


Contact Amber Kennedy
(757) 340-7425

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