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Friday night is traditionally the time for art-gallery openings, and this evening (Friday, June 16) is no exception. Thirty-five galleries spanning the metro area open new shows tonight — and all of them feature works of glass. This is neither a coincidence nor a statistical quirk. The Glass Art Society's annual conference takes place in our fair town this year (welcome to St. Louis, glass masters; try a frozen custard and a T-rav), and in honor of the international society's visit, the galleries have gone glassy-eyed. And whether you're in town for the conference or are a permanent resident, the Glass Art Gallery Hop provides a rare treat: a macroscopic view of one specific medium. The only catch is that there's a time limit of four hours, as the Hop runs from 6 to 10 p.m. So, you can visit to make a list of participating galleries, call your friends to craft a schedule, discuss coordinating outfits, and then race like mad to make all the stops — or take our advice and cheat. Sure, cheat. Select galleries that show completely different styles of glass art, thereby maximizing your viewing experience — and pleasure. Our recommendations? Well, since you asked....

The Glass in the Garden exhibit of Dale Chihuly's works at the Missouri Botanical Garden (4344 Shaw Boulevard; 314-577-9400) is a good start — in fact, it's a head start. Get there at 3 p.m. and walk through the outdoor displays of Chihuly's riotous explosions of glass, and you'll have an edge on everyone else who's waiting for the official 6 p.m. start. Look, we mentioned there would be cheating.

After the garden closes, make a beeline for the Atrium Gallery (4729 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-1076) to see Flo Perkins' show Perfect Game. Inspired by the fine sport of bowling, Perkins has crafted numerous blown-glass objects that acknowledge the humble bowling alley as a source of aesthetic delights. And her whimsical pieces are a nice contrast to the showy abstractness of Chihuly's work.

Back on the road, this time to the R. Duane Reed Gallery (7513 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-862-8357) and the work of Ann Robinson. The recipient of the 2006 Glass Art Society Lifetime Achievement Award, Robinson creates her pieces through a variation of the lost-wax-casting method. Her vessels are luminous objects that seem to both emanate and absorb the ambient light.

Next up is Susan Taylor Glasgow's exhibit at the Craft Alliance (6640 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-725-1177). In contrast to everything you've seen thus far, Glasgow works with panels of glass — panels that she sews together. Outstanding. Her glass undergarments are sexy and curvy, as well as being translucent and completely impractical for today's active lifestyle. But loads of fun nonetheless, and absolutely beautiful.

Had enough yet? No? Then head down to Soulard and the Mad Art Gallery (2727 South 12th Street; 314-771-8230) for the Sam Stang, David Levi and Scott Darlington show. Stang works in the European traditions of both murrini and incalmo to create his bowls and vessels. The former method involves fusing numerous glass rods into a single tube, then blowing this tube into the desired shape; the latter requires creating individual pieces of the desired shape, then fusing these sections into a whole. Both techniques result in exceptionally lovely objects, at least the way Stang practices them. His work gets a multimedia workout this evening, as Michael Eastman has created a video stream that morphs images of Stang's vessels in a sort of Syd Barrett-meets-2001 psychedelic fashion. Darlington's work continues the freak-out mission. After all, how often do you get to see a transparent, tattooed baby?

OK. That's a full evening. Fortunately, Mad Art is open till 11 p.m., so you have an extra hour. Ooh, more cheating — but it's totally worth it.
June 16-July 1

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