Sunday, July 01, 2007

Review of Studio Craft show at the Met

This summer (if you haven't already), be sure to catch "One of a Kind: The Studio Craft Movement" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through Sept. 3). With about 50 works by highly respected American craft artists in the Met's permanent collection, the show includes furniture, ceramics, glass, metalwork, jewelry, and fiber.

Getting on board with the heightened relevance of craft in culture today, the wall text states: "Today's studio craft artists are no longer labeled simply 'craftsmen' as the lines between craft, design, and fine art have blurred."

As exciting as it is to track what the next generation of artisans is making and how artists are using craft media, it is also important to be aware of the history of these movements, and to appreciate how many craft artists have been avant-garde for quite some time now.

Among the many lively and interesting works in the show, here are some highlights:

(The Met's press office was able to send me images of only a few works I wanted to mention from the show, so in some cases I have provided images of similar works by the makers I found particularly interesting.)

Made from wide strips of birch bark and sewn together with silk thread, this basket by Donna Look from 1988 has great shape, color, and texture, like a big seed pod. (Exhibited piece similar to shown).

The show included another cool basket by Ed Rossbach titled "Happy Days" (1991) woven from wide strips of paper and wood, then painted in watercolor with applied images of Mickey Mouse. It reminded me of Cy Twombly's paintings. Alas, I can't find a decent picture of something similar...

"Hard Grid" neckpiece (1991) by Flora Book made from long silver tubular pieces and monofilament. Although the styling in this photo doesn't really exploit the potential for this flexible piece, I love dramatic structural jewelry like this, and she is among the masters of the form.

I saw my first Magdalene Odundo piece in at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston last fall and instantly loved it. These big dark ceramic pieces are like an ancient bell, a pregnant body, a ritual mask, an exotic bird... (Exhibited piece similar to shown.)

No survey of American studio craft would be complete without a big hulking Peter Voulkos piece. This was a particularly nice example, for some reason titled "Noodle" (1996). (Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Sheila Hicks' "Linen Lean-To" (1967-68) is a huge wall piece (86" wide) that struck me as very clean and cool... and very '70s. (Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The poster image for the show is this piece by Richard Marquis titled "American Acid Capsule with Cloth Container" (1969–70). (Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Made from leftover glass in a Murano studio, the piece references the antiwar/counter-culture movement of the time.

As with most works of craft, the actual pieces look MUCH BETTER in person than in photos, so treat yourself and go see the show! (And remember to catch the Costume Institutes's Poiret show, walk through the new Greek & Roman galleries, and enjoy the roof garden while you're at it!)

(Link to the New York Times review of the show here.)

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