In Memoriam: Marvin Lipofsky (September 1, 1938 - January 15, 2016)

As posted in the San Francisco Chronicle, January 18, 2016

Marvin Lipofsky in his studio in Berkeley, CA, in 2003. Photo credit: M. Lee Fatherree 

Marvin Lipofsky in his studio in Berkeley, CA, in 2003. Photo credit: M. Lee Fatherree 

Marvin Lipofsky, 77, renowned San Francisco Bay Area teacher and sculptor who worked with glass, died of natural causes at his home in Berkeley on Friday, January 15, 2016. Mr. Lipofsky was born and raised in Barrington, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, where his parents Henry and Mildred Lipofsky owned a small department store. He earned his BFA in Industrial Design, 1957-1962 at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, followed by an MS and MFA in Sculpture, 1962-1964, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Mr. Lipofsky was among the first students to work with Harvey Littleton, the celebrated founder of the American Studio Glass movement, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Immediately upon graduation, he was hired by the University of California, Berkeley to build and direct its glass program, where he taught until 1972. Teaching full-time, he developed the glass program at the California College of Arts and Crafts (now the California College of the Arts) in Oakland where he remained until 1987, when he left to work full time in his studio in Berkeley until his death.

In addition to his daughter, Lisa Valenzuela, and his son-in-law, Steve Valenzuela, Mr. Lipofsky is survived by his grandchildren, Briana and Antonio, his sister, Barbara Marsh, his brother-in-law, Richard Marsh, and his good friend, Jeanette Bokhour.

Marvin Lipofsky. IGS VII 2000-02 #3. 14 x 20 x 19 in. 2000-2002. Blown at Novy Bor, Novy Bor, Czech Republic with help from Jan Lazor and team. Photo credit: M. Lee Fatherree

Mr. Lipofsky’s work was prized for its rhythmic forms and complex concave and convex shapes, which suggested both abstract and organic sources. Glass was his chosen medium of artistic expression. A consummate colorist, and fine artist, Mr. Lipofsky took great advantage of the chromatic possibilities of working with hot glass. He was dedicated to honoring the artists who worked with him and the places where he made his work.

Celebrated for his working method, Mr. Lipofsky regularly traveled to glass workshops around the USA and the world (he visited 30 foreign countries, including Bulgaria, China, Israel, New Zealand, the Soviet Union, and from coast to coast in the USA; he taught over 300 workshops around the world), where he gathered the raw material for his pieces, worked with local sculptors and their students in their hot shops, observed local communities and traditions, and then returned to Berkeley to assemble his final objects. Mr. Lipofsky functioned as an ambassador for sculpture in glass, often naming the groups of works that resulted from his voyage for their place of origin, for example, the Stockholm Series (1989) and the Kentucky Series (2000).

Marvin Lipofsky. Kentucky Series 2000-01 # 8. 16 x 17 x 17 in. 2001. Blown at Centre College, Centre College, Danville, KY with help from Steve Powell , Brooke, Paul, Brent and students. Photo credit: M. Lee Fatherree.

Mr. Lipofsky’s work was widely exhibited and collected. It is included in the permanent collections of the Corning Museum of Glass, the Museum of Art and Design in New York, the Oakland Museum of California, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the St. Louis Museum of Art, the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Renwick Gallery (National Museum of American Art) Smithsonian Institution at Washington, D.C., and the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, among many others. The recipient of a Lifetime Achievement award from the Glass Art Society in 2009, he was also the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California in 2003. A founding member of the American Studio Glass movement, he was the most influential glass artist in California.

Marvin Lipofsky was a formidable character and leader in the close knit community of glass artists and collectors, within the USA and internationally. His longtime friend (since 1972) and Murano collaborator, Gianni Toso, wrote, “Marvin's reputation … sprang from his inability to tolerate mediocrity and his passion for the glass culture. He had an intellectual honesty and integrity, as well as an unsurpassed generosity and warm heart.” Dorothy Saxe, one of Mr. Lipofsky’s early admirers, and possibly his most important collector, upon learning of his passing, said, “Marvin was a giant in the art world and I've had great admiration for his personal work as well as his contribution to the glass community for so many years.”