Posts Tagged 'jewelry'

Precious Objects

Twenty-five works from the celebrated Rose-Asenbaum Collection of modern and contemporary jewelry are now on view, and included in free general admission, in the Museum’s Tower Gallery exhibition Form/Unformed: Design from 1960 to the Present. The collection includes over 700 pieces of modern studio jewelry created by more than 150 acclaimed artists from Europe and around the world. Take time to “ooh” and “ahh” over these magnificent bracelets, brooches, necklaces, and more.

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Art’s Inspiration

 

Image of Art Smith photo by Arthur Mones, 1979

Image of Art Smith photo by Arthur Mones, 1979

Last weekend, From Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith opened at the Dallas Museum of Art.  In connection with this exhibition, the Center for Creative Connections is pleased to have on view a “Baker” Bracelet by Art Smith, along with a collection of tools owned by the artist.  Because a different “Baker” Bracelet is also on view in the exhibition, we faced the challenge of providing information that would expand on and not simply duplicate the information included in the exhibition.  In the months prior to installing the bracelet, I  learned that “Baker” referred to Josephine Baker.  So, naturally, my first question (and the one that I thought visitors might have) was “Who is Josephine Baker?”

As it turns out, Josephine Baker led quite an amazing life.  Baker was an African-American dancer and singer, who rose to fame in France.  In 1926, her performance in the popular show La Folie du Jour cemented her celebrity status.  During World War II, she worked for the French Resistance both entertaining troops and smuggling hidden messages in her sheet music.  After the war she returned to the United States and was an advocate for the Civil Rights movement.  Her efforts were acknowledged by the NAACP, who named May 20th “Josephine Baker Day.”  Baker, loved for her singing, dancing, fashion and beauty, was greatly admired by artists and writers of the time such as Langston Hughes, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Pablo Picasso.  However, what I found most intriguing was that she inspired several sculptures by Alexander Calder.  Calder is known to have been an influence on modernist jewelers like Art Smith, and so their mutual interest in Baker caught my attention.

 

What similarities can you notice in the lines, shapes, angles, and curves between the bracelet and the images of Josephine Baker?

Visit the Center for Creative Connections to see the “Baker” Bracelet and Art Smith’s tools and to learn more about Smith’s inspiration and process.  On view through December 7, 2014.

Jessica Fuentes
C3 Gallery Coordinator

Sculpture for the Body – Art Smith at the DMA

Art Smith , Untitled, 1948-1979, wood, paint, copper, Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Charles L. Russell, 2007.61.36a-m

Art Smith , Untitled, 1948-1979, wood, paint, copper, Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Charles L. Russell, 2007.61.36a-m

This week we are putting the finishing touches on the DMA’s presentation of the exhibition From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith. Highlighting a pioneer of late 20th-century jewelry design whose work represents the progressive modernist impulse of “sculpture for the body,” the installation is both dramatic in appearance and revealing in what it contains. This collection, which also features examples of works by Smith’s contemporaries, is drawn from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, which received a major gift of the artist’s work in 2007. While we are thrilled to host this exhibition of a leading American jewelry artist, our interest in having From the Village to Vogue appear at the DMA was also to note the larger importance of this medium and reflect upon the DMA’s interest in expanding our jewelry holdings. Just as fashion boldly entered our galleries through the 2011 presentation of The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, this year we will not only feature the work of Art Smith but also, excitingly, make plans for future exhibitions of jewelry and other design arts.

Art Smith, Ellington Necklace, circa 1962, silver, turquoise, amethyst, prase, rhodonite, Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Charles L. Russell, 2007.61.4

Art Smith, “Ellington” Necklace, c. 1962, silver, amethyst, chrysoprase, rhodonite, green quartz, Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Charles L. Russell, 2007.61.4

Beyond the realm of curators and collectors of modernist studio jewelry, Art Smith’s work is often unfamiliar, yet his impact and those of his contemporaries in the decades following World War II helped shape a new American movement in both design and craft. Drawing from the trend toward abstraction in painting and sculpture, Smith and other designer-craftspeople experimented with highly stylized forms, particularly the biomorphic imagery that characterized the work of sculptors such as Isamu Noguchi and, notably, Alexander Calder. Unlike other sculptors who may have occasionally produced jewelry, Calder’s passion for the medium appeared at least equal to that for his more widely known large-scale mobiles and stabiles. Like Calder, Smith reveled in the whirling organic line: bent wirework that was complemented by flattened ovoid forms, semiprecious stones, and richly finished patinas. Unlike so-called “high-style” jewelry, faceted gemstones and highly polished precious metals were typically set aside in preference for subdued materials and more direct fabrication techniques that were undoubtedly less labor intensive, but also ones that provided more visceral results by reflecting the hands of the artist as an immediate, personal expression. What could be more perfect for the medium of jewelry, which is, like other elements of fashion, an equally personal manifestation of the wearer’s preferences? And they were indeed artists in keeping with the spirit of the times; the modern sculpture, painting, and rhythmic vibrancy of jazz that Smith admired certainly echo throughout the punctuated, gestural lines, which form a type of visual play in his richly syncopated designs. You may notice this almost immediately upon entering the darkly colored main gallery, which features Smith’s work. Even in static display, each piece seems to dance with a particular life of its own.

(left) Art Smith, "Modern Cuff" Bracelet, designed circa 1948, silver, Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Charles L. Russell, 2007.61.15; (right) Peter Basch, Model Wearing Art Smith's "Modern Cuff" Bracelet, circa 1948, black-and-white photograph, Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum

(left) Art Smith, “Modern Cuff” Bracelet, designed c. 1948, silver, Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Charles L. Russell, 2007.61.15; (right) Peter Basch, Model Wearing Art Smith’s “Modern Cuff” Bracelet, c. 1948, black-and-white photograph, Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum

As you might expect, it is always exciting for the many hands and minds that make such exhibitions possible at the DMA to delve into a new arena as we are doing now with modern jewelry. From interpretation to design, each of our exhibitions requires hundreds of hours of brainstorming, logistical planning, and creative input, all with the hope that whatever subject we bring you will be offered in a way you will find compelling or even thrilling. As a curator, communicating facts is only one part of my job; sharing my enthusiasm for looking, learning, and celebrating the diverse creative achievements of the visual world is, at heart, what I and all of my colleagues at the DMA do every day. We hope you will find From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith and our new jewelry endeavors just as exciting as we do!

Kevin Tucker is The Margot B. Perot Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the DMA.


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