United States

07/25/2011

Kiff Slemmons It is entirely true that the exhibitions accompanying the 2011 SNAG conference ran the gamut from the best to ‘fillers’ and yet overall the shows were successful. It is paramount that the bridging of thematics occur in any exhibition and in some cases this was done overtly, in others it was more subtle. This year four exhibitions were particularly successful in addressing the theme of the conference, which was flux. As organizers Joan Hammond and Carmen Valdes defined it: ‘We live in a state of flux. Our response to change in society, art, politics, economics, and technology is to embrace it, challenge it, or ignore it. No matter how we respond, flux is a constant catalyst in our lives.’

Kiff Slemmons Appropriately installed at the (3 x 10) Three By Ten space of Suyama Peterson Deguchi Architects, Kiff Slemmons, in collaboration with Arte Papel Oaxaca, presented Pride of Paper/Orgullo en Papel. Representing the innovative spirit of an established member of the jewelry field, the collaboration between Slemmons and the artisans of Arte Papel promoted recursive collaboration. As Arte Papel’s website puts it, the ‘goals of the workshop are to preserve the natural and artistic cultural values of Oaxaca, including its forests and springs as well as rescuing the tradition of the use of plant fibers . . .’

It was not only the notion of tradition or the installation of the work in such a grand austere space that was notable, but also the precious nature of the work. Meticulously placed on acutely angled tables, the jewelry filled the space with a banquet of natural vibrant colors.

Kiff Slemmons The jewelry transcended the tenuousness of the material from which it was created (paper) and was substantiated by its form, color and structure. This is not to say paper is an inferior material, but rather just the opposite – it has lasted for centuries with proper care. Slemmons has guaranteed the longevity of the work by giving the jewelry substance in form, connecting it culturally and geographically with tradition and allowing its design to elevate its preciousness.

Sondra Sherman Sondra Sherman’s solo exhibition Found Subjects debuted at Marquand Books Studio. The work was presented in an intimate studio space and was punctuated with several small white lecterns displaying several altered tomes.

The books perched atop the lecterns were constructions of secret hiding places, hollowed out books that could be considered another innocuous manuscript. Innocent? They were not, since beautiful jewelry occupies the hollowed spaces, hiding away as if it were a parasite occupying its host. Sherman uses cursory references to book titles; however, her attention to detail reveals a comprehensive understanding. As Sherman writes in her artist statement, ‘I have not read any of the books as I was not interested in illustrating, but in responding to the title, or purely visual information, and common knowledge of the given subject.’

As with Slemmons’s exhibition, the presentation formalized the work, engaging the viewer by removing the work from a standard plinth and vitrine presentation and allowing the attendees to appreciate the work with the intimacy necessary to view the manuscripts. The works speak to a ‘common knowledge,’ not a language about a specific thing but rather a ‘meta-idea,’ threading together several disassociated ideas and creating phenomena.

Geography The long-awaited collaFritz Maierhofer boration between SNAG and AJF occurred and, if not revolutionary, it was a laudable success for the 2011 SNAG conference. Unlike most exhibitions organized to coincide with the conference, Geography was held on-site at the Westin Hotel. Curated by Susan Cummins and Mike Holmes and organized by AJF, the exhibition brought together 52 artists and Earrings Galore, Heidi Lowe29 galleries and embarked on an examination of ‘the global nature of the contemporary jewelry field and the diverse ways that jewelers react to their environment.’

 The exhibition was much more than reinventing a hotel boardroom, with a grid of vitrines-capped tables reminiscent of a city plan. The thoughtful display considered common form and language that occurred between the individual pieces of jewelry. The work was placed in cases relative to the jewelry’s geographical region. Germany, for instance, was represented by the recent Corian® work by seasoned jeweler Fritz Maierhofer and the taxidermy work of Alexander Blank. Geography was also notable because it was not sequestered within the confines of four walls. The exhibition was a ‘looking glass’, where picturesque windows remained open, looking out into the city of Seattle, while the large square vitrines appeared as if they were reflecting pools revealing Earrings Galore, Heidi Lowea cross-section of specific geographic locations.

 One of my last exhibition visits of the conference almost didn’t happen. Earrings Galore, presented by the Heidi Lowe Gallery, was a noteworthy POP-UP that took place in a re-contextualized hotel room. According to gallery owner Heidi Lowe, the idea for the project was spawned two years earlier, when she carried a small parcel of work with her to the 2009 SNAG conference in Philadelphia and everything sold. Based on the success of her 2009 experience, Lowe planned the Earring Galore pop-up based on her successful annual exhibition held at her gallery in Rehoboth Beach. A call for entries was published and, of the applications received, 27 artists were chosen and presented in Seattle.

 Room 1637 of the Westin Hotel was stripped bare of the chattels assigned to the hotel room: no headboards, no nightstands, just two relocated queen-sized beds looking out on the city’s skyline. The concept of disassembling a perfectly good hotel room added an edge to the show, like rock-stars trashing a hotel room after a drunken bender. At eye level the walls were clad by a sequence of elegant Victorian paper silhouettes adorned with the artist’s earrings.

Doug Bucci

Doug Bucci is an artist and educator in the field of jewelry and metalsmithing. He designs original jewelry pieces using CAD and cutting-edge production processes, such as rapid prototyping, and has worked as a CAD/CAM/RP consultant and designer for several national companies since 1995. He teaches at The Tyler School of Art at Temple University and the University of the Arts, both in Philadelphia. His work has appeared in many publications, including Metalsmith, American Craft and the 500 Series from Lark Books. His jewelry is held in the Design Museum in Helsinki, Deutsches Goldschmiedehaus in Hanau, Germany and the Philadelphia Historical Society.

AJF Trip 2011: Seattle
Rhetorics of Craft