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apexart :: Outlaw Glass :: David Bienenstock
apexart nyc
Outlaw Glass
organized by David Bienenstock

March 30 - May 27, 2017

Opening Reception:
Wednesday, March 29, 6-8 pm

Featuring work by:
Alex Aitken
Joseph Aitken
Stan Alba
Kristian Alex
Kurt B
Tommy B
Ben Barocas
Big Z
Jarred Dlux
Chandler Ellis
Kiva Ford
Dan Getz
Jonathan Gietl
Michael Helt
Richard Hollingshead II
Justin Jenicke
Joe Itza
Garry Lauderman
JD Maplesden
Dylan Matthess
N3rd Glass
Jeff Newman
Jupiter Nielsen
Stevie P
Joe P
Joe Sandler
Miguel Santamaria
Rob Scarpati
Jordan Smith
Bob Snodgrass
Bobby Snodgrass IV
Virginia Snodgrass-Gietl
Phil Sundling

brochure pdf
press release pdf
exhibition checklist pdf
images page
The New Yorker
Huffington Post
The New York Times
Canadian Art
Glass Quarterly
Art in America
RELATED EVENTS:            

March 10 & 11, 2017
Competition Mystery Box Pipe Build
apexart and Brooklyn Glass teamed up to host this mystery-box glass pipe-making competition.
Friday, March 31, 7 pm
How to Smoke, Properly
David Bienenstock and Justin Allen review cultural variations, etiquette, and techniques associated with smoking in this performative demonstration.
Saturday, April 29, 4:30 pm
Microdosing and Marijuana: Less is more
Learn about the benefits of microdosing, and how to do it right with edibles and infusions.
Saturday, May 20, 2 and 4 pm in NYC
Outlaw Kitchen - Cooking with Cannabis
Robyn Griggs Lawrence, author of The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook, presents instructions for harnessing the herb’s unique flavor profile and medicinal benefit through mouth-watering recipes.
As cannabis legalization takes root and spreads, much of the media discussion surrounding this societal sea-change has focused on the economics or the politics involved. But how will ending the War on Weed transform us culturally?

The hottest hot take seems to be “marijuana is going mainstream,” an analysis that rather snobbishly presumes this cultural exchange will be a one-way street. So to better understand what authentic underground cannabis culture has to offer, Outlaw Glass examines work from leading “functional” glass artists and traces the history of this legally grey art form through its birth, the coordinated arrests of some of its leading practitioners, and on into a new golden age of increasing acceptance, and incredibly advanced works. For just as author Michael Pollan once described black market cannabis growers as “the best gardeners of my generation,” the most exciting movement in art glass today comes from those creating high-end artifacts that happen to double as tools for getting high.

Which is really nothing new. The history of using highly decorative ceremonial objects to inhale cannabis smoke dates back at least 2,400 years. In Southern Russia, archeologists recently discovered a set of solid gold smoking devices at least that old, that tested positive for THC residue. Those intricately engraved artifacts most closely resembled what we’d now call a “bong,” and likely belonged to tribal chiefs among the Scythians—well known as being perhaps the most enthusiastic cannabis users in the ancient world. All of which shows that the deep connection marijuana smokers feel towards their pipes is not a new phenomenon.

Today, even with an avid following of collectors scooping up their work, and millions of fans on social media awaiting each new innovation and collaboration, the leading names in functional art glass don’t tend to work in solid gold. But they can afford to spend months on a single piece, in order to bring their most elaborate visions to life, all because they’re fully supported by a thriving sub rosa subculture that shares as holy sacrament a plant that’s still illegal in most places. And for the most part, they’ve done it all without ever coming to the attention of the larger fine art world, though the movement does appear to be following the trajectory of graffiti culture, which started literally in the streets amid serious and sustained official repression, only to break through into galleries and then put its stamp on both high art and popular culture.

Which is all a long way from the Grateful Dead parking lot scene of yore, where Outlaw Glass featured-artist Bob Snodgrass first pioneered the craft by selling his one-ofa- kind hand-made glass pipes to Deadheads as the band endlessly toured the country. One signature piece, which recalled the band’s own iconography of a skull in a top hat, became so synonymous with its creator that those lucky enough to acquire one would refer to it, reverentially, as a Snoddy.

Deadhead 1 to Deadhead 2:

Hey man, some guy just traded me a sweet bud of Northern Lights for one of our veggie burritos.

Deadhead 2 to Deadhead 1:
Far out, that’s some great weed. It deserves to be smoked out of my Snoddy.

Long before becoming the “Godfather of Glass,” Bob Snodgrass was an inveterate tinkerer and a stone cold hippie who worked a “straight job” in a machine shop by day while at night making candles in his home kitchen with his wife to sell to local stores. Then, in 1971, he got seriously into functional art glass after fatefully seeing a pipe displayed in the window of a head shop and going inside to inquire about it. There he met the artist who’d made the piece, together they shared a joint, and soon thereafter a man who says he’s often “accused of creating a form of Americana art and being its founder” took his first steps down that path.

Snoddy would later invent a series of groundbreaking techniques that set his work apart from all that preceded it, most notably “fuming,” which involves vaporizing silver, gold, or platinum in front of a flame to release fumes that then bind to the surface of the glass. Fuming gave his pieces an incredible and easily identifiable look, especially as it caused the pipes to drastically change color as the glass darkened with use. But rather than clutch tight to his alchemical secrets, in order to keep prices artificially high for his output, Snoddy instead made a conscious decision to spread his knowledge as freely and widely as possible.

While living in Eugene, Oregon – between Dead tours, and after his retirement from the road – he took on hundreds of eager apprentices, many of whom would go on to be brilliant innovators in their own right, pushing the movement to new heights. With the rise of the internet, some of the most talented and entrepreneurial of these next-wave lampworkers and glassblowers built multi-million dollar business empires selling their work to head shops and over the internet.

Until the federal government stepped in, with a boot on the throat they called Operation Pipe Dreams. On February 24, 2003, as the culmination of an elaborate and long-running undercover sting operation, hundreds of businesses and homes across America were targeted for a series of coordinated law enforcement raids. Fifty-five people were arrested for crimes related to the sale of “drug paraphernalia,” including comedian Tommy Chong.

The long famous comedian would end up being the only person involved to serve any time, but many of the country’s most talented functional glass artists spent that night behind bars, stripped of all their assets and wondering how long till they walked free again. Afterword, the scene co-opted the phrase “degenerate art,” a term the Nazis once used to describe banned modes of expression, and went right back to making functional glass.

That was nearly fifteen years ago, and the predominant cultural signifiers for functional art glass are no longer hippies on Dead tour, or a defiant battle against government censorship and oppression. Now, if you’re likely to hear anything about this scene, it’s probably some click-bait story online about how “a bong just sold for six figures.”

Money certainly changes everything, but make no mistake, the roots of this movement run deep, and remain radical.

“This world is full of characters,” according to collector Simon Abrams. “Some are art school kids wholly versed in sculpture, but many others are high school dropouts who found a way to express themselves after falling in love with first weed and then glass. And they all share a creative urge to improve upon their last piece and grow as artists, whatever that means to them.”

To honor the legacy of Bob Snodgrass and showcase the incredible achievements of the generations of glass artists who’ve followed the path he first blazed, Outlaw Glass includes a collection of top-level work from leading contemporary glassblowers, plus multimedia examinations of these artists’ lives, and the sub rosa subculture that supports them.

David Bienenstock © 2017

David Bienenstock is the author of How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High (Penguin / Random House - 2016), and Legalized It!. Previously he was the Head of Content at HIGH TIMES and a columnist, frequent contributor, and video host/producer at VICE Media, where he co-produced the series Bong Appetit, including viral episodes like A Gourmet Weed Dinner at Hunter S. Thompson's House and Marijuana Nonna. A contributor to VICE, VICE News, GQ, Motherboard, Salon, Munchies, the Guardian, the Wirecutter, and other publications, he has been profiled by Vanity Fair, The Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Food & Wine, Slate, Alternet, Mashable, and elsewhere, while making frequent media appearances, including on CNN, NPR, MSNBC, HBO, and Fox News.

apexart’s programs are supported in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Buhl Foundation, the Degenstein Foundation, Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., Affirmation Arts Fund, the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the Fifth Floor Foundation, and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
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