2019 Rakow Commission: David Colton

2019 Rakow Commission: David Colton

A glass cannabis pipe and sculpture with graffiti-like swirls in purple, red and black

Untitled, Corning Museum
David Colton
United States, b. 1974
United States, Westhampton, Massachusetts, 2018
Flameworked borosilicate glass, steel
30.5 x 66 x 23.5 cm

David Colton’s practice comprises abstract borosilicate sculptures and functional glass pipes. He has created a new work for the 34th annual commission called Untitled, Corning Museum (2019).

This expressive, graffiti-inspired sculptural object conceals a functional glass pipe. With its bright pink, red, and purple calligraphic forms, Colton’s piece also demonstrates the contribution of pipemakers to colored borosilicate glass, the palette of which has expanded greatly since the beginning of the glass pipe movement in the late twentieth century.

Colton’s commissioned work will be the first glass cannabis pipe, also known as functional glass, to enter an art museum’s collection.

Woman leans in on the barrier to see a glass cannabis pipe and sculpture“We, as an institution, strive to promote the scope of glass in all of its forms, and pipemaking is an important part of contemporary conversations,” said Karol Wight, president and executive director. “The fact that David Colton was chosen as recipient of this year’s Rakow Commission is a testament to the impeccable craftmanship of his work and the refined technical abilities of artists in the pipemaking community.”

Since the late 1990s, glass has been the material of choice for cannabis pipes. Originating in the “parking lot” scene of Grateful Dead concerts, pipemaking has since emerged as a global phenomenon with a highly developed culture of makers, collectors, and enthusiasts. Operating outside the mainstream of glass and art, pipemakers looked to street art and pop culture for inspiration as they made works that obscured their function and skirted legality. Colton’s pipe enters the Museum’s collection amidst changing conversations about cannabis, with the decriminalization and legalization of its use being passed in many states and municipalities in the United States.

“Pipes are one of the most important areas of glass production in the 21st century,” said Susie J. Silbert, curator of modern and contemporary glass. “They are inventive in their material and technique and have a broad popular appeal. Colton’s expressive, abstract pipe, with its graffiti-like form and nearly hidden function, beautifully demonstrates the aesthetic influences and possibilities of this art form.”

man wearing purple safety glasses heats a tube of clear glass on a torch in a wood paneled room with a high vaulted ceilingDavid Colton, who currently lives and works in Massachusetts, began working with glass in Fort Collins, Colorado in 1995. Using innovative sculptural forms influenced by subjects as diverse as the rise of graffiti in America in the 1980s and 1990s and the foliate scrolls of ornamental metalsmithing, Colton’s work references and reflects the counterculture that has surrounded cannabis use. His work is also included in The Dr. Seuss Museum’s permanent collection in Springfield, Massachusetts, and he is represented by The Chesterfield Gallery in New York City.

“It’s an honor to be this year’s recipient of the Rakow Commission. It’s unbelievable to be having a functional glass pipe accessioned by The Corning Museum of Glass for its permanent collection,” said Colton. “The glass pipe community is full of dedicated and highly skilled individuals who deserve to be recognized for not only their work but their greater impact on American culture. My hope is that this is just the beginning of a movement where glass pipes are accepted and included in museums worldwide.”