Ornamentum’s current exhibition, History Repeating II, presents a collection of recent jewelry from Viennese jeweler Petra Zimmermann. This is Zimmermann’s first solo exhibition in the United States. Her work is a reflection on the overlap between art jewelry and fashion, mixing high-couture sensibilities with a twenty-first century ‘mash-up’ aesthetic. In Ornamentum’s newly renovated exhibition space, Zimmermann’s bracelets and rings are centrally located on a long, flesh-colored pedestal. The arrangement is overwhelmingly glamorous; overhead lighting emphasizes the glint of gold leaf, creating tiny reflections in each faceted stone. Repeated circular planes of framed space serve as an invitation to the body. Playful visual relationships and opulent surfaces offer a pleasing cacophony comparable to Cellini’s decadent Salt Cellar or the Baroque architecture of Versailles.
A poignant break in the rhythm of the display is a small pedestal holding a solitary floral brooch. Utilizing the same process as before, Zimmermann pushes one step further. This particular brooch is a moment of success where the building material has been seductively transformed. The plastic sheets take on an aggressive volume; the piece becomes a much more expressive form. Zimmermann has utilized the logic of the material to both embed a drawing within the plastic and then later draw upon the hardened surface. With sudden curves and undulating lines flowing in a syncopated rhythm, this brooch participates in the strongest dialog with Art Nouveau. This piece promises the pleasure of discovery. The brooch’s placement on the pedestal combined with the suppleness of the form makes one want to bring it to the body. So one does. Where Zimmermann succeeds in elevating the function of ergonomic bracelets, she falls short with the pin backs. Clean and simple, the thin wire structures are evidence of a pin back as afterthought. The gauge of wire feels a bit too thin and manipulating the double pin stem is an awkward struggle.