Timothy Horn: Bitter Suite

Sparkling with sugar crystals and enormous glass-blown forms
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Timothy Horn's "Mother-Load"

REVIEW At some point this summer, you'll likely be asked — or roped into — accompanying visitors to see the Dale Chihuly exhibition at the de Young Museum. It's a pretty series of darkened rooms with enormous blown glass forms, lit to show off a floorshow of colors and whimsical shapes. There's nothing conceptually difficult or politically offensive in this Willy Wonka–scale display. But if it leaves you craving craftsmanship and concept, a quick trip upstairs to see Timothy Horn's installation "Bitter Suite" should cure that.

The Australian sculptor, known for his large-scale versions of 18th-century jewelry, also has a background in glasswork. But two of the three pieces he created for this part of the museum's Collections Connections series sparkle with sugar crystals. Horn's objects are a response to the not-so-happy Cinderella story of Alma Spreckles, widow of millionaire sugar baron Adolph Spreckles and founder of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. Horn's hefty 300-pound chandelier piece Diadem is a larger-than-life, rock candy–encrusted beast hanging near Sir John Lavery's matronly oil portrait, Mrs. Adolph Bernard Spreckles (1932). Mirrors on either side of the room create that never-ending-hallway effect, with the honey-colored chunky chandelier echoing like a lost guest at Versailles. Big enough for a small princess to ride in, Horn's carriage, Mother-Load, is also caked in sugar crystals and shellacked light brown. Looking like a giant baked cookie confection, it's cousin to the museum's sedan chair (circa 1760) that once served as a phone booth in Spreckles' home. The third piece, Sweet Thing, a grossly magnified French baroque earring with big blown-glass pearl drops, drips with unwearable glamour. In this era of comically high-priced contemporary art and Las Vegas-as-the-adult-Disneyland, Horn points us to the intersection where beauty and greed mutate together.

TIMOTHY HORN: BITTER SUITE Through Oct. 12. Tues.–Sun., 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m. (Fri., 9:30 a.m.–8:45 p.m.). De Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, SF. $10, $7 seniors, $6 for ages 13–17 and college students with ID (free first Tues.). (415) 750-3600, www.famsf.org/deyoung

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