We went to the newly renovated RISD Museum today to check out the Dale Chihuly exhibit. Chihuly is a pioneer in the field of glass art, and most of the pieces on display in this exhibit were glass sculptures and installations. One of the challenges of modern art appreciation is dealing with all of the non-traditional media and structures used by contemporary artists. Paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts have been around forever and it's easier to comprehend modern approaches to these artistic traditions even when they veer into abstraction. When looking at works that use different forms and media, it's sometimes hard to figure out what you're looking at.
Chihuly's work seems to fall into the second category in that it's not a literal representation of the physical world and it's in a non-traditional medium (at least, for sculpture), but it's still quite accessible. All of the pieces in the exhibition were very organic; they either used or suggested natural forms, such as flowers, plants, and trees. If nothing else, his bold use of color gives most of his works a strong enough visceral appeal that a thorough study of 20th century art is not required to form an opinion about his works. In addition to the installations, the museum also had works from several of Chihuly's students and contemporaries on display. I really liked that and think it's a good idea for art exhibitions in general because it's a good way to see how artists influence each other.