Dan Dailey has built a storied career as an artist, participating in more than 250 exhibitions as well as having a major retrospective at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. His work is represented in more than 45 museum collections around the world.
On the surface, all these successes appear connected to his work in glass. Looking deeper, the viewer realizes his medium of choice is far more challenging to manipulate: light.
Illumination is at the center of so much of what Dailey does, and Orbit (1987), a recent gift to the Toledo Museum of Art collection, is an exceptional example.
Formerly in Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room in New York, the sculpture now resides in its new home outside TMA’s Little Theater. Donated by New York real estate firm Tishman Speyer, Orbit is a glowing work of glass with a changing lighting scheme that radiates shades of amber, rose, violet and blue. The muted, ethereal feeling the work evokes contrasts with the images from ancient mythology, space exploration and science fiction that are cast into the glass.
“It’s a pretty significant piece for me,” Dailey said. “When I think about my influences, many are revealed here. This is about a kind of wide-ranging view of things that are significant in the history of art and in the history of design, and the iconography of these things.
“In retrospect, as big as it is, I realize it was still a really personal object.”
Commissioned in 1986 for the Rainbow Room nightclub, Orbit’s first inspiration was the space’s revolving dance floor and iconic history. In 2014, almost 30 years later, the 15- by 8-foot glass mural was removed from its location behind the bandstand when the Rainbow Room’s owners had it dismantled as part of a major overhaul of the club’s interior. It was saved and donated to its new home in Toledo, Ohio, in 2015.
“Orbit’s scale is one reason it’s quite an impressive glass sculpture,” said Halona Norton-Westbrook, the Museum’s director of collections. “But it’s also special because of the level of detail that went into the work, so that it has visual impact both from a distance, as it was installed in New York, as well as close-up. We’re thrilled to acquire this substantial work in glass for TMA’s collection.”
The installation of Orbit is the Museum’s third collaboration with Dailey; in 2007, he co-authored the children’s book “Glassigator,” and in 2008, he was invited to participate in the Guest Artist Pavilion Project at the Museum’s Glass Pavilion.