Sleekly diving, the murrelets form a perfect curving arrow, eternally poised over the still water of the Museum of Glass’ mezzanine pool.
Well, maybe not eternally. “Mirrored Murrelets,” an installation of 270 glass birds just set up in the mezzanine pool outside the Museum of Glass, will grace the plaza through 2009, when it will travel to sites around the country. It’s a welcome addition to the enormous outdoor area at museum, which, apart from Buster Simpson’s “Incidence” on the top level, has been devoid of art for more than a year.
“Mirrored Murrelets” is a supremely fitting installation in an environmental sense. While “Incidence” and previous installations took account of the pools’ reflecting qualities, and riffed on the cityscape visible from that elevation, Joseph Rossano deals with the water as water, setting his flight of birds in an asymmetrical arrow just landing on, or rising from it as they would in the wild. Each bird swoops along the same plane of flight – some beaks tilted up, others pointed determinedly down, the rest straight ahead. Ten others sit calmly in a group at the other end.
A couple of cylindrical fiberglass seats solemnly flank the pool. They’re intended to represent charred stumps from the logged old-growth Northwest forests the marbled murrelet needs to survive, but they’re so abstract they become modernist benches which happily fill with rainwater so as to create secondary pools beside the main one (though not very comfortable seats).
Rossano, who created the birds during a MOG hot shop residency in January, has sculpted his murrelets smoothly, with an almost futurist purity of form. The native sea bird is here transformed into a Platonic ideal, its mirrored glass silvery, echoing the gray of the pool, the rainy sky, even the museum’s hot shop cone itself. They’re set in a roughly even layer – some 12 inches above the water, some just 6 inches – which has an unstudied, serene beauty, whether you’re looking at the arrow from the top level plaza or at eye level walking up the steps from below.
The only trouble is, the arrow is small – and this pool is big. Stretching along the plaza, the pool cries out for monumental art, and “Mirrored Murrelets” is introspective rather than monumental. The birds only occupy about half the pool’s length, reducing their visual impact and emphasizing the rest of the enormous, bland space outside the Museum of Glass.
Still, it’s a good start to what will hopefully be a full-time series of artworks in this important space.
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568
What: Joseph Rossano: “Mirrored Murrelets”
When: All hours through 2009
Where: Museum of Glass, mezzanine plaza pool outside, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma
Admission: Outdoor art free; museum admission is $10 general, $8 seniors and students, $4 children, ages 6 and younger and third Thursdays 5-8 p.m. free
Information: 253-284-4750, 1-866-4MUSEUM, www.museumofglass.org