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Unsung Designer: Kent Ipsen

By Dwell @dwell
A series of vases by American craftsman Kent Ipsen (1933-2012), a substantial contributor to the 1960s studio glass movement, go up for auction in July 2013. Photo

Wright is at it again with its annual no-reserve modern auction, Mass Modern. The goods go on sale July 13, 2013, and while perusing the furniture, lighting, and mid-century tchotchkes, we stumbled upon a new-to-us glass artisan who's worth knowing. Kent Ipsen, who died last year, trained under Harvey Littleton at the University of Wisconsin and later went on to found a highly respected glass program at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Arts. 

Handblown glass vase by Kent Ipsen from 1972 at Wright auction house

Mass Modern lot 298: Kent Ipsen handblown glass vase from 1972 (4.5" x 5"); estimate $300-$500.

According to the Smithsonian's American Art Museum, which has several Ipsen works in its collection, he often modeled his works in clay before developing his ideas in glass, and "his cast and blown sculptures retain a spontaneous and handworked quality." 

Curator Tina Oldknow from the Corning Museum of Glass wrote about Ipsen upon his death that he "was internationally recognized for his sculptural works in cast glass as well as for his painterly blown-glass vessels," which private collectors as well as public institutions like the Smithsonian, the Brooklyn Museum, the Corning Museum of Glass and the Vatican Museum sought. "His work in cast glass, a relatively new medium for artists in the late 1970s, appeared in the influential 1979 exhibition, 'New Glass: A Worldwide Survey,' the first major international survey of studio glass."

Glass vase from 1970 by Kent Ipsen at Wright auction house

Mass Modern lot 295: Kent Ipsen vase from 1970 (5" x 10"); estimate $300-$500.

The five vases and one Ipsen platter offered in Wright's Mass Modern auction date from the 1970s and exhibit exuberant striations of earth tones set in dark, hand-blown glass (with the exception of a neon version that will resonate with a very 2013 color palette).

For further reading on the studio glass movement, we suggest Thomas Karman's "Expressive Independence: The Triumph of American Studio Glass," available here in PDF format.

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