This article showcases various exhibitions in the form of collected exhibition reviews published in the 1983 Fall issue of the Metalsmith Magazine. This features Thelma Coles, Richard Reinhardt, Leslie Leupp, and more!
Thelma Coles, Metalwork
Haggar Gallery, University of Dallas
February 14-March 4, 1983
by David Keens
The recent exhibition of new work by Thelma Coles at the University of Dallas provided the viewer with an opportunity to observe well-conceived, meticulously crafted metal sculptures. The group of eight pieces, constructed of copper, stainless steel and silver, varied in scale by several feet, but more important than their size or materials were their intrinsic references and their reflection of the artist’s perception of and responses to various cultural phenomena.
Perhaps the most striking of the work presented were the two largest pieces entitled Root Structure Response and Boot Structure Reliance. Conceived as responses to a brief stay in the rural dwellings of central Mexico, the pieces present peaked-roof structures perforated by tendril, vegetation-type forms which fill the sheltered space below. The “roots” offer physical support as well as a sense of impermanence and fragility to the roof structure. There is a conscious ambiguity concerning the distinction between inside and outside, suggesting both the vulnerability and restrictive qualities of dependency that exist in the rural Mexican culture.
The remaining pieces in the exhibition were more closely related to one another in both idea and structure. Contingent Perception was perhaps the strongest sculpture in this group. The piece addresses various concerns of dependency between man and nature using forms derived from ocean piers and boat docks as metaphor. The delicate silver “ropes” span open spaces between “floating” elevated platforms, bordering a graceful, undulating plane. The influence of the Texas Gulf Coast fishing community is clear. The physical dependency on the ocean for “support” is expressed through the structural interdependency of the forms, while at the same time man’s immanent need to extend beyond complete dependency is implied by the structure itself stretching out from the land.
This group of new sculptures by Thelma Coles utilizes various concepts of interdependency that she addressed in earlier wearable pieces, but the abandonment of jewelry scale has provided a less restrictive format, thus allowing a stronger sense of concept/form relationships.
Thelma Coles, Root Structure Response, copper and stainless, 25 x 16 x 13″
Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Scottsdale, AZ
March 22-April 17, 1983
by Joseph E. Young
As an invitational exhibition of works by 14 artists, “Arizona Metal” attempted to present a generous sampling of Arizona’s best contemporary metalwork. The emphasis was on innovative techniques and images. Occasionally a utilitarian work was presented, such as Tai Goo’s wrought iron Barbecue Set, which in its delicate craftwork and design rivaled the metalwork of Antiquity. Goo’s Knife and Sheath, created with damascus steel, bronze and various hardwoods, typified the elegance and exquisite refinement that characterized the exhibition as a whole.
Michael Barr, Thumbtack 18, inlaid sterling and steel, 4½” h.
Several jewelers exhibited fine works ranging from Clare Yares’s heirloomlike cufflinks and rings to Cornelis Hollander’s more contemporary appearing 14k gold rings, which included a large, round, cut tourmaline stone offset by a somewhat superfluous diamond. Of the traditional jewelers represented, John Hays seemed the most outstanding. While his Pendant resembles Art Deco in its exterior geometric construction, iridescent colors and nonprecious and odd-shaped stones, what resembles a tiny gold sculpture as the focal point of the piece animates the interior of both pendant and clasp.
In startling contrast to such traditional elegance were the whimsical creations of Peter Jagoda and Dawn Nehls. Typical of Jagoda’s diminutive metal fantasies were Doz Tips, a madcap fantasy crafted of bronze, brass and sterling silver in the form of two miniature bulldozers, which appear to be completely functional and designed to “protect” the toes of leather cowboy boots. Also inspired by the jeweler’s craft were Dawn Nehls’s sculptures, including Arizona. Incorporating copper, sterling silver, nickel, titanium and gravel, this work portrays a miniature billboard with “Arizona” floating in metallic relief above the perspective view of a retirement trailer park.
Dawn Nehls, Arizona, copper, sterling, nickel, titanium and gravel, 10 x 8″, 1981.
Less topical in their visual references, and the most impressive works on view, were those of Michael Barr, the guest curator of the exhibition. Of the works presented, Barr’s alone seemed best to represent both the synthesis and extension of the metalsmithing tradition. For his ingeniously conceived vases, Barr combines forged steel and silver holloware construction which suggests the work of a modern-day Cellini. His Thumb Tack series of maquettes are created from steel and inlaid with sterling silver to create geometric surface decorations, vaguely redolent of early designs by Vasily Kandinsky. Measuring approximately four inches tall, Barr’s Thumb Tack pieces are designed to be fabricated in steel and aluminum and to measure from four to eight feet tall in order to take advantage of the sheer grandeur that size alone can impose.
In terms of its stated goals “Arizona Metal” was highly successful, presenting an impressive array of fine craftsmanship as well as a broad diversity of esthetic expression that does, in fact, seem to typify the better metalwork currently being produced in Arizona.
John Hays, Pendant, sterling, 14k gold, aquamarine with gold and silver two-tone chain
Helen Drutt Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
April 30-May 21, 1983
by Sharon Church
Richard Reinhardt’s recent exhibition of jewelry and holloware at the Helen Drutt Gallery was perhaps the most profound grouping to date of this artist’s work. The past five years have been a period of intense growth and discovery for Reinhardt. He returned to the world of teaching and his own artistic development after a 17-year career in academic administration. His renaissance as a metalsmith was launched in October of 1978 with a collection of jewelry made up of belt buckles, neckpieces and bracelets. It was the bracelet, however, that became the focus of his interest in circularity and continuity. As the circular format suggests, he found himself engaged in an endless pursuit, following the evolution of design and technique through one form to the next. Occasionally his solutions find expression as either torques or holloware, but it is the bracelet format which continues as central to his endeavor.
Richard Reinhardt, Bracelet, sterling, 1983
The geometry and engineering of his work are not new in and of themselves, but their application to a jewelry/smithing format finds a unique reality in Reinhardt’s work. His great ability is in understanding and personalizing the facts and formulas of the three-dimensional world and applying them to body ornament and functional ware. Much of Reinhardt’s work is about design process. The art, the invention, is in his perceiving possibilities. By altering parts, there are infinite solutions suggested in any given problem. And thus, beyond each piece there exists for him a thousand pieces. As much as design derives from the intellect, here is also the love for tradition, craft and material. The elements are products of tools and process; the mark of the maker is left on the surface and in the form. The pieces have a warmth and sensuality that stem from Reinhardt’s understanding and acknowledgment of his heritage.
His work is evocative in its profound simplicity of form. Because of its circularity, the work initially appears simple, perhaps even facile. Further investigation reveals something quite different. Ambiguity and illusion strike against one’s first impression; there is a mystery to the work and the viewer is suddenly involved. Whether in the main group of bracelets or in his torques and most recent holloware, it is through his countless modulations of form and content that we participate in his intellectual intrigue. Thick, heavy lines wrap around and around, in a dizzying journey across and through the form. A broken line continues only in illusion; a solid mass is actually many parts. The casual observer might miss all of this, but those who look closely discover this “discontinuous continuity,” the term Reinhardt uses to describe his ongoing fascination with what is there and what is merely suggested.
All this is there for the viewer and the participant. If one cares to become involved with the intellectual aspects of this work, good. But Reinhardt’s main concern is that his work be appreciated primarily for its use and beauty. Not only must the bracelets embody his design principles, they must be wearable and durable, lasting beyond our time. Moreover, design considerations must be in total sympathy with the utilitarian objective. Thus he affords several entry levels for the viewer and communicates through each piece to many different audiences.
Richard Reinhardt, Torque, sterling, 1980. Collection: Helen Drutt
The work is at once traditional and contemporary, recalling 18th- and 19th-century silversmithing, recognizing Scandinavian training, yet embodying the formal concerns of the 20th-century artist. The forms themselves are timeless, not new. What we find in them is a stunning exposition of seemingly basic design solutions revealed to us in surprising new ways and done so that the final piece transcends design and begins to instruct the viewer, extending our knowledge of three-dimensional form. We are treated to discovering this for ourselves, in quiet observation. Or we are simply captured by the handsome beauty of the piece.
Richard Reinhardt was trained as an art educator at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Arts, enlisted as a Marine during World War II, and returned to Philadelphia to teach jewelry with Virginia Cute Curtain at his Alma Mater. He was chosen to attend the first metalsmithing symposium sponsored by Handy & Harman, taught by Baron Erik Fleming. The following summer Reinhardt returned as a teaching assistant; these two sessions make up the bulk of his formal training. In 1948 he was included in the Handy & Harman Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Reinhardt has taught in and chaired the Industrial Design Department at the Philadelphia College of Art, was appointed Assistant Dean and later became Academic Dean of the College. Recently he has returned to the classroom to teach design and metalsmithing. He is currently Chairman of the Crafts Department at PCA.
New Departures in British Jewellery
American Craft Museum I, New York City
April 15-June 5, 1983
by Whitney Boin
Question: what results when artists in one medium diverge and explore other avenues? Where does this expansion take them? Does one drop into a sea of ambiguity when no longer supported by the structures of a medium’s traditions? Do voyageurs begin to span a void and break through into other disciplines?
“New Departures in British Jewellery,” an exhibition which included the works of artists Caroline Broadhead, Pierre Degen, Susanna Heron, Julia Manheim, Eric Spiller, David Watkins, Barbara Alcock, Rowena Park and Gillian Simon gave us a forum to discuss these questions. We may not find definitive answers, but through an analysis of work in this exhibition we can see where these individual departures lead. Divergence from a familiar medium is an adventure that may or may not succeed. How does one judge the success or failure of the resulting creations? To me, new work is successful when it synthesizes inspired aspects of two or more differing media into a new hybrid.
Julia Manhelm, Drum-Shaped Body Cage, plastic tubing and PVC squares, 1983. Photo: David Ward
Haute couture fashion is playful, absurd, theatrical and can be done purely for shock value. Haute couture is made to be worn, the body is the stage on which designers play out their ideas. It is within this fashion context that I found several of the works here derived their inspiration. Julia Manheim’s wonderfully playful and certainly theatrical Drum Shaped Body Cage, 1983 (50 cm in diameter), constructed of large interconnected hoops in brightly colored plastic tubing successfully reflects these fun and outrageous aspects. This piece, which intersects the body from waist to neck, derives refreshing inspiration from haute couture because it engages the body as a reference point in order to stage its playful theatrics.
Cage ignores jewelry’s traditional wearability and scale. Traditionally jewelry has been used to accent and decorate the body. It can be argued that fashion can also fulfill this function, but I think there are several major differences. The first and most obvious is placement on the body. Jewelry is generally worn in places clothing is not; for example, the ear, neck and hand. The second distinction is one of scale. Jewelry is small in comparison to the body; it is scaled to be compatible to the area on which it is worn. This compatibility is the third distinction, since jewelry works with the body and not off of it. The costume and couture aspects of Cage are certainly fun and inventive, but the practical, functional jewelry aspects seem to be ignored, preventing a real synthesis with haute couture. Manheim’s Ladder Neckpiece, 1982, a flexible six foot ladderlike assembly, draped over the shoulders suggesting the skeletal remains of a simple tunic, is less successful. Although its interaction with the body is analogous to fashion, it does not incorporate any of the absurd, playful or theatrical qualities, thus seeming rather uninspired. Many of Julia Manheim’s plastic assemblages in this exhibition retain fossilized evidence of their evolution from the necklace format. These dinosaurs failed to fully evolve beyond being large necklaces.
Caroline Broadhead, Veil Neckpiece, finger woven nylon monofilament, l. 45 cm, d. 25 cm, 1983. Photo: David Ward
Caroline Broadhead’s Veil Neckpiece, 1983 envelops the wearer in a spiral of shimmering lavender monofilament. Rising from the neckline it interprets beautifully the mystery of the veil to create a dramatic presence. Her work is even more firmly implanted in fashion—it aspires to theatrical effect in order to make a statement. Yet, taken within the functional jewelry context it looks absurd. Therefore, Veil is an unsuccessful blending of these two worlds because of its lopsided leaning towards fashion. Susanna Heron’s Wearable, 1982 has a less obvious fashion influence. A simple wire circle with translucent fabric stretched within is secured in the center to a long cloth appendage. This scarf is wrapped or draped around the neck so the wire frame rests behind the head. Wearable, 1982 is not clothing, yet the glamorous and theatrical images it evokes are most certainly drawn from fashion. Its origins in jewelry are only alluded to in its scale, delicacy, detail and placement on the body. Heron’s piece is truly metamorphic in that it successfully goes beyond a simple combination of fashion and jewelry elements.
Susanna Heron, Wearable, cotton fabric stretched over wire ring, d. 18″, 1982. Photo: David Ward
A few of the works in this show abandon the jewelry context entirely and become pure clothing. Caroline Broadhead’s Shirt 2M Sleeves, 1982 is an example. Composed of yellow and white fabrics with extra, extra long sleeves, Broadhead’s Shirt is strictly wearing apparel. This blouse with ruffled sleeves is only slightly interesting as clothing and inconsequential to haute couture fashion. Heron’s White Collar, 1983 (wire hanger included) appeared to be a quickly stitched rough pattern for a quilted decorative garment. This particularly banal object is of no consequence either to fashion, clothing or jewelry. Wire hanger included? The end products of these two latter explorations are alienated from the jewelry format and are solidly based in existing, well understood fashion parameters. For the most part the work in this show, which derives inspiration from the fashion medium, falls flat when judged solely within that discipline. I feel this work must incorporate essential creative insights into the new fashion field which distinguished it initially in jewelry.
Although Pierre Degen’s work can be discussed in terms of fashion’s absurd and theatrical nature, I find his work to be rooted more in sculpture. Sculpture, unlike fashion, is an entity which can be contemplated without any other reference point. Unburdened of fashion’s dependence on the body, it is free to express a much wider range of ideas. Fashion interprets outside influences, while sculpture can be a vehicle for commentary and evaluation. Degen, we see from photographs, fully intends these works to be carried. The large Ladder pieces are humorous comments on the pretentiousness of some art jewelry because of his absurd reference to wearability. Works like Black Ladder and Balloon, 1983 consist of five foot ladderlike assemblages of primitive construction. Some painted black, others in bright primary colors, these structures support huge three-foot-diameter balloons or red wooden Xs tethered behind. His work has a separate identity which can be contemplated when not worn. That is why they are sculptural. It is for these reasons, lack of wearability and satiric comment, that these pieces fail as jewelry and enter the sculptural domain.
Julia Manheim, Ladder, neckpiece, plastic tubing, 1982. Photo: David Ward
David Watkins’s work, unlike Degen’s, was clearly as comfortable on the wearer as on the wall. His work is true to jewelry’s functional heritage, in terms of its compatibility with the body in scale, comfort and form. Off the body, Watkins’s Primary Orbit Neckpiece, 1983, one of many necklaces in the show, is less jewelry than a playful interaction of two-dimensional minimalist elements. Watkins’s work, although more readily accessible and easily understood, was clearly among the strongest in the show because it successfully synthesized sculpture and jewelry into a new and exciting mutation.
What results when artists in one medium diverge and explore other avenues? In the case of Heron’s Collar and Broadhead’s Shirt, the works ended up in a new neighborhood. Devoid of the insight and inspiration specific to jewelry, they faltered within the fashion world’s different creative concerns and criteria. Watkins’s Necklaces and Heron’s Wearables, a synthesis of mediums, brought forth a new hybrid which is eminently valid within the jewelry context. In the case of Manheim’s Cage, Degen’s Ladders and Broadhead’s Veil, the works were provocative performance pieces. The physical objects were subordinate to the communication of ideas in that they seemed to be an illusion serving as a vehicle to expand our notions of jewelry.
Pierre Degen, Black Ladder and Balloon, painted wood, meteorological black rubber balloon. On the wall, left to right, are object by Susanna Heron. Photo: Ralph Gabriner
A catalog of this show is available from the American Craft Council Publications Department, 401 Park Avenue South, NY, NY 10016 for $5 (including postage), plus appropriate sales tax.
“New Departures in British Jewellery” will travel in Canada and the U.S. as follows: through October 16, Le Château Dufresne, Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Montréal, Canada; November 16-December 18, Brunnier Gallery and Museum, Iowa State University; January 20-February 18, 1984, San Diego State University Art Gallery
The Jewellery Project
Crafts Council Gallery, London
April 20-June 26, 1983
by Barbara Young
When the Knapp family, Malcolm, Sue and Abigale, of New York asked David Ward and Susanna Heron of London to build for them a collection of recent jewellery work, in effect they commissioned an idea. David and Susanna were given carte blanche, with the single stipulation that work would not be bought from established figures on the basis of their past achievements alone. From this viewpoint David and Susanna developed a collection that gives emphasis to work which embodies ideas initiated in the past few years, 1980-1983. Since during this period experimentation has challenged the definition of jewellery, many pieces in the exhibition require other words, more descriptive ones, to suggest their raison d’être: appendage, wearable, sculpture, assemblage, all have been applied, and other descriptives are equally applicable.
Lam de Wolf, Body Piece, cotton and wooden sticks, 1983.
It is not possible to address the subject of this collection in toto and say anything very specific. Even the catalogue’s subtitle, “New Departures in British and European work 1980-83,” is not entirely accurate, as the catalogue essay goes to great lengths to prove. There are merely some tendencies or strands, if you will, that allow for thematic interpretation.
To begin with, turning from the handsome catalogue to the collection itself leads to a certain amount of disappointment. Immediately one is struck by the fact that much of this work photographs magnificently, some requiring a human body to illustrate its intended placement (or possible placement), while others are essentially an extension of the language of graphics. And maybe their validity simply rests there: they were made to be photographed. As for the text, a nifty handful of prestigious associations have been drawn together to inform the viewer and nudge his thinking along desired pathways, a kind of intellectual fanfare, vastly overblown for the strength of the work involved: art movements, Futurism, Constructivism, Dada; fashion trends, the Swinging 60s, Punk, New Wave and Craft Revivalism; and finally the moralistic note, the Dutch social awareness and its puritan roots. These and many other associations are developed and illustrated.
Basically “The Jewellery Project” presents two categories of ideas: one involves straightforward decoration, the other involves costume, that is, various kinds of accessories or visual props usable under rather specific kinds of circumstances. Some have a very limited application, as mentioned, their maximum visual potential being realized through photography (works by David Watkins, Otto Künzli). For others there is the requirement of a human body which acts as the passive member, the plinth as it were, upon which the forms are draped, pinned, hooked or tied (Lam de Wolf, Pierre Degen, Susanna Heron). Some of these are referred to as wearables. However, since in most cases the wearing would greatly or entirely negate normal body motion, it must mean pieces of craft requiring a wearable person.
Sorrel Corke, Sleeve, Vilene and wire, 500 mm long, 1982.
In the category of decoration, the most commonly used technique is that of fabrication using stock of various materials as they come from the factory. These are by and large acts of assembling materials, bending, folding, wrapping, twisting. Within this category the “new departures” are relative to several factors: use of what could be termed not nonprecious, but insignificant, or everyday kinds of material; placement of articles: method of attachment; and scale. Materials commonly used are wood, cotton, elastic, rubber bands, paper and many kinds of plastics. Placement could be about any place not usual and method of attachment reduced to minimal mechanisms, commonly hooks used in conjunction with a springy agent. As for scale, some pieces in this category start crossing over, begging entrance into the second category by becoming accessories dictating body movement limitations.
As for the costume or accessories, these forms generally are as inert and non-articulated as the more purely decorative pieces. Of the wearables that acknowledge the wearer, top marks have to go to Carolyn Broadhead’s shirt with eight-foot-tong, highly crushable sleeves. Susanna Heron’s hat and floppy disk neckpiece make marvelous subjects for photographic studies when modeled, but, unfortunately, have been executed in sleazy materials that look tired rather than relaxed. Of the wearables that require the presence of a human being in order to exhibit them to their full potential Lam de Wolf’s forms are probably the most demanding being not only unwieldy but of fragile construction as well. While this form photographs nicely, it is not a treat to examine closely. Sorrel Corke has produced a sturdier sleeve, if such be allowed as criterion, apparently more action worthy, made of vilene and wire.
Some articles, such as Degen’s pinboard, Herman Hermsen’s wire headpiece (a rectangle of wire worn horizontally at ear level), and Otto Künzli’s “Hand” pieces (rubber bands, steel rods and triangles of sheet steel to hold between one’s fingers) are all essentially playthings, props for the stage of life, things to look at and things to play with, toys. And why not?
To this end the catalogue does this exhibition a disservice. It attempts to install “The Jewellery Project” in our minds as art. We are to believe these are sculptures. A genealogy has been constructed to legitimatize these “new departures.” Why could they not have been produced and presented as objects for play, because that is what they are all about? They die the minute you try to take them seriously.
Pierre Degen, Pin Board, wood and webbing, 650 x 470 mm, 1982. Photos: David Ward
A well-documented, 48-page catalogue is available from the Crafts Council, 12 Waterloo Place, London SW1Y 4AU, England.
Montana State University, Fine Arts Gallery, Bozema, MT
March 29-April 15, 1983
by Ken Bova
Recent exhibitions of contemporary jewelry/metalsmithing show a growing preference for small sculpture as well as a continued attempt to present jewelry-as-art. “Metal” at the Montana State University Fine Arts Gallery was no exception. This invitational exhibition organized by Richard Helzer, Professor of Art at Montana State, represented a small body of work by 16 artists, selected from a nationwide search. In light of the diversity in the show, both in form and content, the installation was somewhat disappointing. Clustered and crowded, most of the work was placed on undersized pedestals. In fact, signs repeatedly warned gallery-goers to be careful not to bump things. Also, some works were inexplicably contained in plexiglass cases while others were displayed openly. The overall appearance was slightly erratic—a potpourri of small sculpture, but closer examination did provide a few treats. It is a credit to some of the works that they were able to project themselves despite these drawbacks.
Christine Clark, Your Bed is Your Lifesaver.
In general, the show appeared less preoccupied with metal per se than the title indicated. Much of the work, of course, was devoted to metal exclusively, but a good number of the 42 pieces shown were mixed media with metal acting as the point of departure or foundation. There was also a refreshing lack of clever technique and material manipulation for its own sake. The show exhibited a fair amount of virtuoso craftsmanship, but more often than not it was a means to an end rather than the end itself. In this several pieces elicited strong responses.
The work of Wendy MacGaw I found to be among the strongest. Her copper and plate glass pieces rested comfortably in the space they occupied, compelling the viewer to approach them. Wild Princess, a kind of small watertowerlike structure whose surface is patinaed a weathered copper green, had a mysterious familiarity. It had (as did her other two pieces) an architectural feel that seemed to fit its scale. Any larger and this work would appear clumsy, smaller and it would be overlooked or easily dismissed.
Joseph Wood, Time and Weight, aluminum, copper, wood, and rock.
In contrast to MacGaw’s work, that of Beth Rizzo-Patron muscled its way into the space it occupied, pushing the viewer away. Tatas of the Arctic Winds resembles an inverted single-edge razor blade of acrylic, pierced by an acrylic lance, resting on top of a metal arch, on either side of which is attached a small metal ladder. Under the arch hang acrylic stalactites (icicles perhaps?). The work sits heavily on its mirrored dias and strains to unify its various visual elements into a cohesive whole. Perhaps the largest piece in the show, it seemed not so much a small sculpture as an overgrown and ambiguous jewelry form, appearing weighty and confused in its intentions.
At first glance the work of Chris Ellison projected some of the same qualities as MacGaw’s. Made primarily of copper, also with a green patina, his forms evoke a quiet presence that draws you to them. Unlike MacGaw’s, however, I found them disappointing upon closer inspection. They have a rough, unfinished edge that is not altogether convincing; I could not decide whether they were intentionally crude or just unfinished. One piece, Untitled, a low slab or boxlike form with a recessed area in its center, seemed especially guilty of this.
The almost whimsical pieces by Christine Clark were visually intriguing and disturbing too. Your Bed is Your Life Saver consists of a small painted bed on top of which is a curved sheet of clear acrylic, like some flapping blanket or rolling wave. On this “wave” rests (or floats) a pink life ring. Images of dreaming and drowning come quickly to mind, of course, but it also evokes feelings of safety and comfort. The idea of bed is presented as a paradox, both threatening (a place of nightmares) and comforting (a place of rest and repose). Her use of colorful, painted surfaces and recognizable forms causes the work to teeter on the edge of becoming almost too pretty and narrative. Yet, it maintains its balance, albeit with a certain amount of visual tension. Perhaps it is this tension that I found both intriguing and disturbing.
The exhibit contained much less jewelry than sculptural forms, and the pin or brooch format typically dominated. On the whole, I felt the jewelry was the weakest part of the show. I am not sure if it was because of competition with larger sculptural forms or because the work was prone to rely more heavily on technical skill for its impact. Whatever the case, a few striking pieces bear mentioning.
Wendy MacGaw, Wild Princess
Two brooches by Kye-Yeon Son I found particularly engaging. They were small, shallow, subtley colored squares containing a thin sheet of metal pierced by linear elements. Each suggested cloth or fabric being pierced with needles and had a strong sense of design, clean lines and an elegant, honest simplicity. Kate Wagle’s jewelry also seemed to suggest fabric. Her series of pins, with striped patterns made of silver and brass, had a ribbonlike quality, and felt very much in keeping with the pillow forms in her sculptural work. Both of these artists have a strong command of their materials and present them in a pleasingly crisp, direct manner.
It was clear that “Metal” was mounted in an effort to provide exposure for relatively unknown artists working in the jewelry/metalsmithing field. In addition, it served to draw attention to the possibilities of expression within that field. Less clear was the implication of where those possibilities might lead and what that expression was. Regardless, it was a rare treat in a show of this type to confront an occasional work that addressed itself to issues of esthetics and personal content rather than mere ornament and technical bravado.
The Medium is Metal
Merton Gallery, Toronto, Canada
March 1983, Alice Peck Gallery, Burlington, Ontario, Canada, April, 1983
by Anne Barros
The glossy catalog for the 1983 juried show of the Metal Arts Guild of Ontario attests to the high degree of professionalism achieved by this Canadian group in the past few years. The catalog is a photographic record of every piece in the show combined with jurors’ and artists’ statements and will be a good historic document with which to compare future MAG exhibitions. The jurors, who obviously enjoyed their task were: Haakon Bakken, Associate Dean for the School of Visual Arts and School of Crafts Design at Sheridan College; Pamela J. Ritchie, MFA graduate of the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design; and Marie Shaw- Rimmington, curator of the gallery at the Ontario Crafts Council, a supporting organization for MAG. While commenting on the high technical quality of the work presented, the jurors admitted there were no surprises in the fairly conservative designs displayed.
To win the top award, the Steele Trophy, Jude Ortiz displayed superb craftsmanship in a brooch/pendant that was a completely reversible geometric shape in planes of yellow and white gold, silver and niobium. Four removable sapphires on the pendant allow for screw-on brooch findings. She also took an Award of Merit for a pair of earrings in married metals contrasted against green tourmalines.
Leslie Leupp, Birds of a Feather, Revised, steel, nickel, niobium and wood, 1983.
The design award was given to Charles Lewton Brain for one of his three arctic pins of steel, sterling silver and 24k gold in the doublée technique. The pins seemed truly derived from the Canadian experience, “a summer in Baffin Island . . . weathering, metamorphosis of human and natural pattern. . . .”
The award for the Best Handcrafted Piece was won by Adam Smith with a symmetrical double-edged boot knife. The sleekness of this steel blade with its etched maker’s name betrayed the subtle humor of his statement “there is a purity and sincerity to steel that is uncompromising and quite hard to deal with.”
Paul Street received the Best Cast Piece Award given in honor of Mark Zimmerman, a guild member who died this past year. Yellow and pink gold ribbons reflected into each other in his superb ring for the little finger.
An Award of Merit went to enamelist Fay Rooke for Old Symbols—New Stories, a piece with fine silver cloisonné on raised copper. Fay’s recent copper forms with pierced sections perfectly carry the richness of the enamels. A second Award of Merit went to James Evans for a minimalist brooch of niobium, sterling and nickel silver. Evans’s work is restrained but exciting in its artistic approach to the brooch as a canvas-like surface to be delicately chiseled. Other pieces deserve noting, particularly Linda Fuerniss’s red, white and yellow gold necklace of delicately cast leaf forms; Oksana Kit’s strong neckpiece of sterling silver, steel and enamel; and Roger Chow’s amusing automobile ring with moonstone headlights.
Show catalogs are available ($3 plus $1 postage) from the chairman: Diane Hanson, 6 The Green Pines, Etobicoke, Ontario M9C 2K5 Canada.
Convergence Gallery, New York City
March 1-27, 1983
by David Tisdale
Leslie Leupp builds structures, whether in sculpture or jewelry, which combine similar patterns of forms and surfaces. The earlierst pieces in this show date from 1980, Bracelets in a Series, and 9 Bracelets in a Series. In each, he has built a construction inside of which the individual steel wire bracelets are suspended parallel to one another by springs. The placement and juxtaposition make a sculptural pattern of forms. In his 1982 Bracelet series, and in Birds of a Feather Revised, 1983, Leupp creates this pattern not only in the combination of the individual pieces but on the surfaces as well. The Bracelets use steel wires, curved and rectilinier, for the basic forms, with a sheet or tube of colored niobium striped, plaid, dotted or drilled to form the top section. There is no outside structure tor these bracelets, as there was in the earlier groups. These were designed in sets of three to create a sculptural identity.
Jude Ortiz, Brooch Pendant, detachable brooch, 14k yellow and white gold, 10k gold, sterling, niobium, diamonds and sapphires, 60 x 30 mm.
In Birds of a Feather, Revised, surface pattern of colored and striped niobium is visible in the flat geometric forms along the top of the piece. Hanging from a steel structure directly below them are upside-down bird silhouettes. The use of these bird and geometric silhouettes and their permanent juxtaposition creates the pattern of forms.
Another important aspect of this work is the combination of materials: steel, nickel, aluminum and niobium with wood, gold plate and found objects. Leupp uses a soft feather or a bundle of sticks with a machined handle in Bird Brush and Indiana State Bird Brush, both from 1982, and in Birds of a Feather, Revised a stick tripod supports one end of the geometric steel structure. In Mere Image, 1983, a stuffed pair of birds perches on a rod opposite their flat metal silhouette. The humor or silliness of the stuffed birds is offset by their elegant shadow facing them, framed in a rectangular window. There is an intriguing quality of softness throughout this work contrasted with rigid structure, of lightness with seriousness, of playfulness with elegance and also of volume with flatness. This creates a vitality which keeps the work from becoming tight and severe or merely humorous.
The strength of Leupp’s jewelry and sculpture lies in these juxtapositions of form, pattern and materials. His ability to combine and contrast these elements successfully creates a dynamic body of work which formed a cohesive exhibition
Charles Lewton Brain, Arctic Pins, sterling, 24k gold, double technique, 70 mm d.
Contemporary Artisans Gallery
San Francisco, CA
by Alan Revere
Perusing the current collection created by futuristic jewelry designer Vernon Reed, one wonders, what spaceship did this guy step off of? The technical excellence of this dedicated and prolific craftsman, combined with bold and striking forms, stimulates the viewer to try to fit seemingly contradictory elements together.
Vernon Reed, Let X = X, pin, photo-anodized titanium, and acrylic, 2 x 2½ x 1″, 1983
Vernon Reed works, at the same time, in three distinct yet related directions. This exhibition displayed his latest efforts. The work is the creation of an artist who grew up barefoot on a farm in Arkansas, yet finds himself in a culture propelling itself into the technological future of outer space. Just as his life is a constant reconciliation of opposites, so is the provocative imagery of his work.
Begin with a series of beautiful and highly wearable jewelry composed of colored titanium. These pieces are fashion oriented, with wide appeal, bold and bright ornaments for those in step with Vogue and New Wave styles.
Then journey into a series of very individualized and powerful photoanodized and colored titanium, dramatizing the artist’s obsession with human isolation in an era of high technology. There are allusions to machines of war and interstellar physics in juxtaposition with humans and other organisms, living in desertlike alienation from their surroundings. Reed has strong personal convictions about man’s inhumanity toward man, and he clearly brings these beliefs onto the stage of the minidramas he creates as graphic wearables. One sees beautifully conceived and executed forms in bright colors, crisp and provocative in their two-dimensional simplicity.
A third frontier to explore is his wearables in the series of “cybernetic jewelry.” These are minimonuments, suitable for wall or desk-top presentation as well as for personal adornment. Reed alone has pioneered the use of nematic liquid crystal as a design element, adding movement and the dimension of time to his already innovative work. This series combines brightly colored photoanodized titanium with the constantly changing images of moving crystal displays which he has designed.
Garret De Rulter, Neckpiece, sterling, mokumé.
As one tries to put the opposing images together, the natural result is a feeling of conflict: the warmth of God-given life versus the cold of man-made machine. By his own definition, Vernon Reed is an explorer’ pioneering the question of humanness in an age of technology. His work is a plausible prophecy of the adornment of our descendents, inhabiting distant colonies in outer space. Vernon Reed’s jewelry stands firm as a new class of personal adornment for those whose inner fantasies carry them to far-off worlds.
Hartman Center Gallery, Bradley University
March 8-April 2, 1983
by Karl Moehl
Nationally, Bradley is best known for its competitive print show which, with its 19th manifestation this winter, has survived to be the grandfather of its ilk. Now, with his second metals show, metalsmith Jim Malenda has bid to establish a new tradition which deserves equal fame and longevity. Two seasons ago, Malenda and Bradley pioneered with the “Off the Body” show, which was challenging and often eccentric. This year the classic and what passes for the traditional were emphasized by the 10 invited artists, all from Illinois.
The participants, moving from north to south, were: Lee Peck from Sycamore, Aaron Macsai and William Fredrick from Chicago, Jane Carpenter from Washington (near Peoria), Debra Gold from Normal, Allen Mette from Urbana, Dennis French from adjacent Champaign, Garret De Ruiter from Charleston and Brent Kington and Richard Mawdsley from Carbondale. A look at the map (provided on the show poster) attests to the ubiquity of state expertise in the art.
It was a handsome, solid show. There was a purity about it, a delight manifest in refined metal surfaces for their own sake. One found little impulse toward fashion as broadcast from more publicized media. Imagination and ingenuity were there in abundance, but always disciplined. As to how accurately this reflects the state and direction of art metalsmithing in Illinois, one must trust its craftsman-curator. He has made this show an endorsement for Illinois that any other state or region is welcome to challenge.
Dennis French, Piece #1, sterling and copper
Within this segment of artistic pluralism, it was hard to play favorites; this reviewer particularly admired Fredrick’s gleaming sterling pieces. His chalice and paten, plus his scalloped bowl seem to best combine ancient and modern sensibilities.
Three artists work in sculptural relief. Mette creates jagged planar forms incorporating cloisonné geometric designs set on obsidianlike plastic. French’s work is more fragile in appearance-delicate sandblasted silver wings seem torn and threaten to flutter away gracefully. Macsai’s small abstractions are made of silver lines and snakelike waves of copper or gold. The setting is terraced, boxed and sometimes reticulated. Each treasured landscape or well (as he calls them) is framed with heavy borders which have been cleverly enriched with subtle textures.
Kington’s Icarus figures were the largest in a show of small objects. These are flying masks in mild steel with streamers flowing into the void. The masks sit on a point that balances on a conical base, allowing it to dip and wheel if not actually to fly. These added movement to the exhibition, but comic liveliness was supplied by Carpenter with her set of skinny forms called Coterie. These were animated wands or swizzle sticks or Australian Mimi spirit people in their finery. Made of silver and nickel and decorated with multicolored acrylic plastic or vinyl bows, sequins and scales, they command their own presence.
Linda MacNeil: New Work
David Bernstein Gallery, Boston, MA
by J. Fred Woell
Linda MacNeil makes decorative objects out of glass held together by ingenious metal brackets and an assortment of rivets, hexhead nuts and bolts. “I have been making art professionally for about eight years,” she explains. “I began working with metals, and eventually used glass in some of my constructed objects. Now glass is the primary material in most of my pieces. Metal is used structurally and the structure is often a major design element.” There’s no earthshaking message here, nor socio-political commentary. It’s just you and the objects. You don’t need to know anything about why she does them or “how” to appreciate what you are seeing.
Linda MacNeil, Vase, plate glass and oxidized brass, 15 x 6 x 6″, 1983.
The work speaks about pattern, shape, rhythm and critical balance. These pieces “seem” to hang suspended in space, floating in some cases on air. MacNeil has a gift for understanding the qualities of her materials. She is also a dogged craftsman. The careful detailing of each aspect of this work leaves me “tired,” knowing the hours that must have gone into grinding edges to specific angles with exacting tolerances and leaving the surfaces so smoothly polished that there’s nothing between you and the object to detract from its design essence. I hesitate to be wildly complimentary in an age when we must cut everything and everyone to just below the size of a grasshopper, but I must say I think this work is perfectly orchestrated.
It’s a wonderful experience to enter an exhibition accepting such perfection and allow yourself the opportunity of being entertained by light and color. This work glows in the light. The cast glass pieces especially seem to collect light, hold it and return it to you as if its source was within the object. They really are a chilling experience. You’d swear that if you touched them they’d be ice cold.
Neckpiece, glass, and sterling, 20″, 1982
MacNeil uses opaque glass in several objects with equal sensitivity. The choice of colors is elegant, and the arrangement of the plates and nature of their shapes project an image of dignity and high style, the highest sense of class. I felt in the presence of some very formal environment in which cost was no object; the money was well spent and nobody minded paying. I enjoyed being close to them as I felt some of that class seemed to rub off on me.
One group of objects in which she uses transparent and translucent glass plates made effective use of optics. As images, light and color pass through the glass; they change, bend and are rerouted in fascinating ways. Sometimes this quality of glass can be allowed to get out-of-hand and become the total result. Fortunately, MacNeil controls the mesmerizing nature of this material and designs with good judgment.
All the objects in this exhibition tell us that someone who understands how to put pieces of glass together, and is fascinated with the prospects of doing so, is at work here. Her deep sense of caring is seen in every detail. I commend her for her thoroughness and sensitivity and look forward to what lies ahead. This was a wonderful show.