Renowned glass sculptor and a pioneer of Studio Glass, Marvin Lipofsky died at his home in Berkeley, California, in the early morning hours of Friday, January 15. He was 77 years old. Lipofsky had been in declining health for the last few years, though visitors to SOFA Chicago this past November will remember his dynamic public presentation at a survey of his work at the booth of Duane Reed Gallery, and his pleasure in holding court on a bench in the art fair’s main aisle, greeting a seemingly endless stream of well-wishers and acquaintances.
Lipofsky was a pioneer of the American Studio Glass movement and among Harvey Littleton’s first students at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he received his MFA in 1964. Immediately upon graduation he was hired to create and lead the glass program at the University of California – Berkeley and later did the same at the California College of Arts and Crafts (now the California College of the Arts) in Oakland, California. He maintained a studio in Berkeley until his death.
Lipofsky was a road warrior and ambassador for sculpture in glass, invited to hot shops in more than 20 countries and throughout the US to work with local artists and students in creating the raw materials for the sculpture he would complete back in California. He loved working with different crews at every stop and absorbed aspects of wherever he worked, be it China, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada or elsewhere, or Danville, Seattle, Rochester, Tucson, etc.
His work is a mellifluous cascade of concave and convex forms molded by working wooden forms and implements into the hot glass, then coldworked back in Berkeley. Rich in dappled color, his shapes seemed both abstract and organic, suggesting eroded shells or marine forms, alive with California rhythms.
Lipofsky’s work has been an integral component of modern sculpture in glass for some 50 years, and he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Glass Art Society in 2009 and had a retrospective of his work at the Oakland Museum of California While his later years were marked by a mellowed sense of peace and reconciliation, stories are legion about Lipofsky’s earlier years, where his fierce intensity and often combative manner tested many of his relationships with colleagues and dealers. He had a sharp tongue and never hesitated to use it (I recall that when I first met Marvin, after having written about him a few times and interviewed him by phone, his first words were “I thought you would be taller”).
His teaching and his work was universally admired. Lipofsky was a great storyteller who touched many lives and enjoyed nothing more than recounting his extraordinary experiences, particularly of the early years; he was grateful to his medium and to the life he led within it, and he will be greatly missed.