If the Chihuly glass installations at the Baltimore Museum of Art constitute a symphony of light and color, the Corcoran's "Chihuly: Seaforms" represents Chihuly as chamber music.
Opening tomorrow at Washington's Corcoran (the contiguity of the two shows is a coincidence), "Seaforms" is a much smaller show, and not of installations but of individual tabletop pieces. The largest of these, "Translucent Yellow Seaform Persian Set," closely resembles the "Spanish Orange Seaform Set" in the BMA show. But most of the Corcoran pieces are smaller, nested clusters of rippling, organic shapes that look as if their sides are -- undulating in response to a gentle current.
Far more delicate than the grand assemblages at the BMA, these works exhibit subtle combinations of line, form, color and light. Some of them are even quite understated. "Pink and White Seaform Set" is decorated with repeated thin stripes of the softest color, attracting the attention with a whisper. "Pink and Lavender Seaform Set with Navy Lip Wraps" has glissandos of colored dots along the outside of its outer form; they echo the same colors dotting the inner forms.
In "White and Oxblood Seaform," the inner forms combine the two colors of the title, but the outer form is clear glass with narrow stripes of white and tiny strokes of oxblood. It looks as if these are real creatures, growing into their true colors.
The textures of these pieces contribute to the overall impression that they make. "Cadmium Red and Black Seaform with Black Lip Wraps" has a texture like satin, to go with its rich colors. But "Moss Green and Orange Striped Seaform with Orange Lip Wrap" has the softness of silk to go with its more muted colors, and looks like a scarf drawn up into a loose bowl shape.
Whereas light glows brightly in and through many of the pieces in Baltimore, with the seaforms it more as if the light caresses them, adding to their delicate beauty.
The contrasts between the two shows make it worthwhile to see both to gain as deep a knowledge as possible of Chihuly's art.
'Dale Chihuly: Seaforms'
Where: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 17th Street and New York Avenue, N.W., Washington
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays; 9 p.m. Thursdays; through April 29
Suggested donation $5 families, $3 adults, $1 students, under 12 free
Call: (202) 638-3211