Metalsmith ’86 Fall: Exhibition Reviews
34 Minute Read
This article showcases the various exhibitions in the form of collected exhibition reviews published in the 1986 Fall issue of the Metalsmith Magazine. This features the International Jewelry Symposium, Peter Shire, William Baran-Mickle and Leonard Urso, Linda Threadgill and more!
Collectors and Collections II
An International Jewelry Symposium
Fashion Institute of Technology, New York City
April 12, 1986
by Bernard Bernstein
Context Counts! No, that's not a new idea for an intellectual bumper-sticker. It is a warning that this report will speak of this symposium at F.l.T. as if it were a gem, whose full beauty is revealed only when seen with its siblings in the right setting. Although labeled II in the series, it was actually the third held at F.l.T. in the last year, if the one on Lalique is counted, under the auspices of the Jewelry Design Resource.
The Jewelry Design Resource, coordinated by Jean Appleton, functions as a teaching and research adjunct to the college's undergraduate and graduate jewelry department, chaired by Sam Beizer. The Design Resource also serves as a creative reservoir for jewelry students and designers from around the country. It will be a unique repository of photographic records of major worldwide jewelry collections. It will amass and maintain a wealth of related literature and it has recently founded the Society of Jewelry Historians, U.S.A. and established an affiliation with the Society of Jewellery Historians in Great Britain.
These symposia, therefore, are not just random, disconnected, sometime things, but, to continue the earlier metaphor, important gems in an increasingly embellished mounting.
The possibilities and the goals of the program were made clear in the welcome and introduction by Jean Appleton, Marvin Feldman, President of F.l.T., and Richard Martin, Director of the Shirley Goodman Resource Center, of which the Jewelry Design Resource is a part. They noted the explosion of interest in the Jewelry field and identified the esthetic, intellectual and historical study of jewelry as having finally "come out of the closet" and become the basis for serious scholarly research. It is their plan that the international forum, where the academic and the marketplace will join, will be the Jewelry Design Resource at F.l.T. As I understand it, in this center, committed to jewelry studies, may eventually come together the designers, studio jewelers, manufacturers, curators, collectors, craft organizations, writers, critics, historians, gallery owners, appraisers, students, teachers and just plain folks who love jewelry. Judging by the unexpectedly large turnout of over 500 enthusiastic attendees, some of the goals of attracting such a varied audience have already been achieved.
The invitation to attend the symposium promised to present 'world class' authorities. It was my impression that the promise was fulfilled. The following information, taken directly from the program, lists the speakers and their topics.
- Hugh Tait: The Waddesdon Bequest of Renaissance Jewelry. Baron Ferdinand Rothschild's Collect on at the British Museum
- Shirley Bury: The Victorian Era. Jewelry in Portraits and Practice
- Yvonne Brunhammer: Jewelry in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs
- Hans Nadelhoffer: Historic Influences on the Styles of Cartier
- A. Kenneth Snowman: Fabergé. The Revolutionary
The organization of the program was logical and varied, with no overlapping of topics and slides. The first three speakers focused on important periods in the history of jewelry. (Brunhammer showed Art Nouveau and Art Deco Jewelry.) The last two speakers became more specific and zeroed in on two significant figures. The roundtable discussion that followed gave members of the audience a chance to ask questions of the five speakers and two invited guests. Murray Mondscheim, a.k.a. Fred Leighton, Ltd., and Ralph Esmerian, a leading gemmologist.
The long day which began at 9:00 A.M. was pleasantly capped by a cocktail reception hosted by Christie's, where a preview of an important jewelry auction was on exhibit. It seemed just right to deal with such abstractions as words and slides during the day and shift to the real objects in tire evening.
I will try to distill for you some of the ideas presented by the speakers. Hugh Tait described in detail a select few of the 300 Renaissance pieces Baron Rothschild gave to the British Museum. He introduced his topic by giving us some insight into the life of the Baron and defined the characteristics of Renaissance jewelry. Some of the important features of the work of this period were: concentration on the human figure, attempt at a highly sculptural, three-dimensional quality, naturalistic representation and emphasis on the use of gold and painted enamel. Tait's presentation was particularly interesting to me because his orientation is a technical one. He showed the backs and insides of pieces, went into detail on methods of fabrication and repair and created a detective story atmosphere in showing how a jewelry historian traces the origin and subsequent biography of a piece through painstaking analysis of its structure and appearance. A piece that looks too clean is automatically suspect because it is unlikely to have survived some 400 years without repair or accidental or deliberate alteration.
Shirley Bury offered a change of pace by concentrating on the human side of jewelry, showing how it reflects the social attitudes and historical and economic events of a period. Bury's method of presentation was an intriguing one, in which the jewels owned by Queen Victoria and her contemporaries were shown in direct photographs and as part of the costume of these people as depicted in painted and photographic portraits.
The theme of much jewelry of the period was sentimental. Certain motifs (snakes), materials (human hair) and objects (combs, chains) were popular. Bury's enthusiasm for the people who owned, sold, gave and made jewelry matched her excitement about the objects themselves. Her memory for names, dates, places and events rivals that of a computer, yet her sense of humor is happily intact and she ended her lecture with this side-by-side pair of slides: Queen Victoria in widow's weeds up to the chin, and a Parisian charmer, circa 1900, with a diamond-festooned neckline reaching for the Equator.
Yvonne Brunhammer made it clear from the beginning that as chief curator of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris she was involved with other media in addition to jewelry and would not claim to have the expertise of a specialist in this field. Yet her presentation was well-rounded, detailed and authoritative. Her choice of artists also made it very interesting. She gave some background on the museum's jewelry collection which includes about 350 pieces, and told some entertaining stories about how a few of the pieces were acquired. Her talk dealt with the work of four or five jewelers of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. Fortunately, examples of Lalique's work did not outnumber those of other jewelers, such as Vever, Grasset, the Fouquets and Jean Després. I was not familiar with the work of Despres and found it to be the most interesting. He was an engine mechanic during World War I and later, in the 20s and 30s, drew inspiration f or his designs from the forms of such mechanical parts as crankshafts. His pieces, with their sophisticated, beautifully proportioned, clean designs would not look out of place today. Anticipating that we might react to the work of Després as if he were ahead of his time. Brunhammer expanded on the theme by revealing that his pieces were not enthusiastically received by the general public, but were favored by so-called "independent women": those who drove cars and piloted planes.
Hans Nadelhoffer, president of Christie's in Geneva, is also the author of a book on Cartier. His approach, a discussion of the historical influences on the Cartier styles, differed enough from the other topics to sustain interest. For jewelers, it may also have helped answer the chronic question: "Where is my next idea coming from?" Nadelhoffer made the interesting point that historic events such as important battles generally inspired painters and sculptors, rather than jewelers, who tended to draw more inspiration from mythological, classical themes. Some of the stimuli for Cartier's designs were: the discovery of King Tut's burial chamber. historically significant pieces of jewelry from the past (design was more important than price), middle eastern and far eastern motifs and architectural ornament, such as that found at Versailles. The costumes and accessories worn by Nijinsky of the Ballet Russe became the inspiration extraordinaire for Cartier. From this source he derived the dog collar, pearl, jade and coral drops, tassels, the aigrette (a feather motif) and new color combinations in the use of stones.
A. Kenneth Snowman, probably the best-known authority on the house of Fabergé, was an excellent choice to fill the slot as final speaker. His is not an easy act to follow, and his delivery, infused with the humor Jean Appleton warned us to expect, lightened the drowse-inducing effects of a recent lunch, a dark room and five hours of sitting still. Snowman added sensitivity to his other attributes. He knew we were overdosed on Fabergé and tried to avoid familiar territory by selecting interesting aspects of his life and work.
Faberge was introduced as a revolutionary, albeit an elitist one. His goal, when he took over the business, was to avoid making the pedestrian pieces his father had produced and to concentrate on the idea of providing his clients with surprises: gasp-producing technical and visual delights. This led to changes in the workshop. He pioneered new objects, forms and materials: tried new techniques in stone cutting, enameling, metalworking and mechanical systems. The use of welding to fabricate multicolored gold objects was one of his many innovations. When we think of Fabergé, we think of Easter eggs. Snowman showed how limited that image is. The workshop produced an immense variety of objects. Apparently, nothing could escape his passion for decoration, even a rectal thermometer.
This revolution in the products of the workshop would not have been possible without a revolution in attitude about what constitutes value in an object. Fabergé believed value exists in the visual impact, the imaginativeness of the concept and the quality of execution rather than in the cost of the materials. "Expensive things interest me little," he said, as he labeled Tiffany and Cartier "merchants," with their $1,500,000 diamond bracelets. With ideas like that, Fabergé would have been pretty much in tune with contemporary metalsmiths.
Nothing comes from nothing. The prodigious output of the house of Fabergé depended on the labor of 500 men and women who worked from 7:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M. weekdays, and 8:00 A.M. to 1.00 P.M. on Sunday. An irrepressible humorist, Snowman couldn't resist reflecting that, taking social conscience into account, at least those hundreds of people were not among the unemployed.
The historical study of jewelry and metalworking is not new. A glance at any decent bibliography will reveal that. What appears to be new is the developing interest in the field by people who have been involved in other aspects of the jewelry world. The scholars are now talking to us as well as to each other.
A few years ago, with the population of university-trained metalsmiths growing and the teaching opportunities shrinking, many meetings dealt with the topic of making a living. We didn't abandon that interest; we added new ones. One new one is the need to establish criteria and a language of criticism that is heavy on credibility and light on obfuscation.
History is now joining the constellation of jewelry studies and I find it a refreshing, intriguing and valuable pursuit. Why? Because it has an omnivorous appetite. It integrates esthetics, science and technology, politics, economics, psychology, religion and social behavior. It establishes a context; and context counts.
I came away from the symposium, as I believe most others did, with the heady sensation that comes from having seen a lot of beautiful things and received a valuable education at the same time. It was a superior experience and it heightened my anticipation for the next one.
Peter Shire, New Work in Metal
The Hand and The Spirit Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona
April 10-May 15, 1986
by Lynn Rigberg
California artist Peter Shire's creations often are called whimsical, but they are not simplistic. These winsome works make use of simple colors and shapes, not as rudiments but as distillations. The end products seem natural, inevitably wed into their geometric sculpted forms, full of surprising asymmetric harmonies.
From Shire's early ceramic teapots to his latest metal and glass furniture and machine sculptures, his palette emphasizes sunbelt pastels and iridescent tonalities of West Coast post-Modernism. Likewise, there is a durable design connection with the California casual lifestyle and lifeline of California existence, the automobile.
Shire initially learned about metal by working on motorcycles with friends. In this show, the metal pieces have the refreshing appeal of unerring suitability of medium. In addition to the recognizable Shire glass and metal tables, works on display included studies on paper and the precise, clean lined and well-developed Skyhook sculptures.
Skyhooks (of that same genre as left-handed hammers) surprise with their beauty even as they appear functional. They are made of generic square tubing, glass, nicopress clips, cables, wing nuts, jaw ends, turn buckles and various other assorted industrial products. Even the baked enamel coloring is Federal standard colors (only the aqua, says the artist, is customized). Shire enjoys transforming the bureaucratic and the mundane: "Most of it [the colors] is military, which is what is bizarre'," he says, grinning.
Skyhook #2 encourages amused responses. The glass, held in place by the tension of construction, would shatter the moment the machine actually began to produce. The artist points out that, like this piece, the quality of life in society is shattered when the machinery is in production.
Shire's overall vision is upbeat. Like the imaginary Mulberry Street of author Dr. Seuss (to which the artist referred), Shire's creative "place" is imagination freed of mundane precedents. His visual vocabulary is blessedly devoid of intellectualized invective. With a humanist sensibility, he conveys the interplay between man and object, a recurrent theme in his esthetic/mechanical explorations. One senses Shire's optimism.
Shire s oeuvre relies on drawing, which he refers to as "a visualization of everything. Shire's masterful pieces achieve sharp definition, being what they are intended to be, no more and no less.
The artist's first contributions in contemporary art were ceramics. He has ridden the crest of design fashion since his affiliation with Memphis/Milan furniture. He has also applied his particular esthetic to grand-scale environments, creating settings for the United States Olympic Village in Los Angeles. Far from eschewing the fashion element as an imposition on the achievement of art, Shire echoes Ferdnand Braudel in that fashion shows society is ready to move into the future.
Two in Metals: William Baran-Mickle and Leonard Urso
Dawson Gallery, Bochester, NY
March 21-April 15, 1986
by Susan Dodge Peters
In the contemporary trend toward angular, geometric, almost industrial design, in metalwork, William Baran-Mickle's landscapes and Leonard Urso's figure studies fall outside of the mainstream. Sharing this distinction, their work was understandably paired in an exhibition.
William Baran-Mickle's pieces are meditations in metal, filled with memories, sensations and revelations. He attempts to give form to his inner reality and draws upon images and metaphors of the land and natural forms to serve as sites for his contemplations. Baran-Mickle's landscapes range from quite literal, representational scenes to abstractions. The most literal piece in the exhibition Private Beach is based on a memory from his childhood in California. The piece is distinguished by recognizable elements: a picket fence and gate on top of a bluff, a coastline and real sand. The piece suffers, though, from a dissonance between these miniature, toylike objects and the sophisticated amorphous body of the piece. It is almost as though allegiance to memory ultimately blocked Baran-Mickle from making a free and autonomous work of art.
In Letters to Stone, Baran-Mickle works not with memory, but with metaphor. Using the analogy of sedimentary rock formations, he transforms sheets of "paper," like those from journals, and poems, into "stone," suggesting the solidification, petrification, of accumulated thoughts over time. The conceptual idea of the metaphor is intriguing and rings true. (Baran-Mickle is obviously working with insight from his twin professions as metalsmith and writer.) Although the piece is engaging conceptually, it is visually awkward. The transformation from the thin, curling lines of a paper sheet to the rock bulk is most effective. But the pen and pencil that pierce the paper and rocks are too anecdotal, the piece jails by taking its initial image too literally.
Particularly successful as both landscape and idea is Valley Light. In a shallow bowl, Baran-Mickle has created a valley with indications of mountains on the sides and a river or ravine carved through the middle. Over the valley, on thin rods, dangle tiny pennants of sterling silver. The brass and copper of the piece work well as earth colors and so does the silver as twinkling celestial objects. In his statement about this piece Baran-Mickle explained that he wished to capture the emotions and reactions in response to a very specific time and place. It works. Valley Light is just literal enough to suggest an actual place to contemplate, to appeal to our own experience, and just abstract enough to liberate our imaginations.
Sensual and elegant are words that come to mind in describing Leonard Urso's work. In his jewelry as well as his sculptural work, Urso works principally with thin sheets of metal in ¼ to ⅛ inch thicknesses. He hammers these sheets as if he were drawing. Out of the metal emerge suggestions of the human torso—both male and female. Like classical fragments of ancient sculpture, Urso's figures are headless, armless and rarely include more than a hint of thighs.
These fragments—all ideal studies of the human body—appear to have magically risen from some unknown depth to the surface of the metal. They might just now be coming into view from out of a dense fog, or be floating behind a mysterious, gauzy film. These figures exist in a dreamworld where gravity and details—heads, legs—are of no consequence. They are wonderful evocations of reverie.
Urso's figures emerge from the surrounding metal in very low relief—a technique with classical references. Although the pieces are three-dimensional and can be seen in the round. Urso has, in most instances, treated the sheets of metal like a two-dimensional picture plane. With a few exceptions, the work is meant to be seen head on, from either the front or the back.
The most dramatic work in the show is a large copper piece—close to four feet high (all the other figurative pieces in the show are made of sterling silver). The subtle shimmer of the silver is the perfect material for these dreamlike pieces, as is the delicate pattern made by the artist's tools. Tiny pits made from the tapping hammer cover the surface. As these Indentations catch the light, they suggest an elegant network of capillaries just beneath the surface of the skin.
Also effective are the irregular shapes of Urso's pieces. They are roughly trapezoidal and often arc at the bottom, suggesting that they come from a larger, perhaps circular form, or undulating ribbon. The boundaries of these pieces create sinuous lines that are curled and ruffled like the edges of vellum pages, or sheets billowing while drying on a line. William Baran-Mickle and Leonard Urso live and work in Rochester. New York and both teach at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Baran-Mickle, as represented by the work in this exhibition, is an ambitious and searching artist whose complex ideas as yet often outstrip his ability to realize them. Urso, on the other hand, by concentrating on and constantly refining a single motif—and one with such a rich history as well as implications—emerges as the more fully developed artist.
Plum Gallery, Kensington, MD
May 4-27, 1986
by Tina Chisena
Linda Threadgill's concern for dimensionality has a ways been evident in her wall sculpture. Indeed, it has always played a part in her jewelry as well. In this recent solo show of her jewelry, we were treated to a mix of her familiar abstract, three-dimensional mode.
There were a few brooches and many pairs of earrings representing the familiar Threadgill style. Most of these pieces employed edges or frames of some type to enhance the illusion of depth, and all of them had the soft, frosty, etched surfaces that have become a signature of her work. Of course, these pieces were all beautifully crafted and handsomely displayed. However, the newer themes were more exciting.
There were three sculptural brooches in the show. Each one has one or more pears as its central literal image. In Pairs, two bronze pears are held in a footed silver vessel. The linear etched surface of the bowl contributes to the impress on of great depth. Although at first glance the piece appears unwearable, it is actually not very deep and is quite wearable. Tabletop portrays a humorous lack of balance and proportion between the floor, table pedestal, tablecloth, bowl and pear. Here again the illusion of depth is enhanced, only this time it is by a comically exaggerated perspective, rather than by the surface effect used in Pairs.
Among her three-dimensional pieces was a static, but powerful, hollow square bangle bracelet. This piece is a subtle patchwork of etched surfaces. It comprises graceful changes in width, and a neatly contrasting lozenge shape and shiny gold organic form, which, from one view, looks like a loose gold molar.
The remaining works are bracelets or necklaces of hollow fabricated silver shapes, combined with tubing and ivory or hematite beads. They have the primitive quality of most bead compositions, but the etched tubular connecting pieces and the occasional angular bead jerk your perceptions back to the present. Each necklace, such as Melon Bowl, is composed of a large central form, which holds a number of smaller shapes that are repeated at intervals through the length. There is a whimsical quality to these pieces arising from the contrast of familiar shapes and unlikely surface textures.
Throughout the show one was struck by the effective ways Threadgill uses her faultless surfaces and the meticulous construction required The new directions of the sculptural and beaded works show us yet another aspect of this talented artist.
Works Gallery, Philadelphia. PA
May 4-June 29, 1986
by Dana Standish
To say that Eileen Sutton's jewelry holds few surprises sounds almost like an insult. On the contrary, what a relief to see a straightforward group of pieces that makes no pretense of trying to say something. All one sees here are direct works that convey the very personal touch of their maker. On second thought, perhaps that is surprise enough for one exhibit.
Sutton combines most of the old standbys of contemporary jewelry—precious metals, resins plastics, found flea market-type antique chains—but she uses these materials in a way that is distinctly her own. Her works, mostly pins and bracelets are at once highly idiosyncratic and tightly controlled. This seeming contradiction keeps one looking at the works, trying to decide if it is O.K. to smile. It is.
The works have titles like Family Crest Brooch and Favorite Billiard Lampshade Earrings. Billiards, a favorite theme, is represented in several pins whose triangular shape and round compartments of multicolored epoxy resin are arranged in rows, much like a rack of billiard balls.
The appeal of Sutton's work is its freshness, and it's repetition. She has hit on a formula that rings true. These are not primarily technical accomplishments. File marks are removed from the metal, within reason. The chains have the well-handled look of their junk-store provenance. The resins are left with rough-file finish, which does much to enhance the overall spirit of the works.
The bracelets in the show look like they don't quite have all the bugs worked out of them. They are made of a too-heavy triangular piece of carved resin, attached by a too-filmsy chain. The one I tried on projected dangerously off the wrist and was a member of the genre I call "Subway Jewelry"—good for defending oneself against attack in tight places.
It is nice for once to review a show without having to consider using the words "content" or "context." Eileen Sutton's work is a reminder that contemporary jewelry doesn't always have to be all work and no play.
J. Robert Bruya
The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH
May 4-June 8, 1986
by J. Robert Crayne
The lovely, quiet, sky-lighted center gallery upstairs at the recently revitalized Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio exhibited 24 neckpieces by J. Robert Bruya, professor of metalsmithing and design at nearby Slippery Rock University.
The neckpieces fall into two distinct groups. The first, random works of varied character, and the second, selections from the artist's ongoing series entitled Preservation of the Species, are all fabricated in silver or pewter and some combination of bone, feather, horn, shell, glass and clay beads and several varieties of natural stone.
The overall effect in the first group is powerfully primitive. The pieces are heavy, frequently massive, but nonetheless elegant in design, craftsmanship and intricacy of surface treatment. For the most part, they are large globular or squarish forms in pewter or natural stone and animal horn, while coil-like structures of similar shape have elements of cast pewter filigree, small glass beads and larger clay beads, impressed with hieroglyphic shapes reminiscent of ancient runic tablets. One of the most striking pieces in the show is an arrangement of onyx and bone cubes, swivel-hinged to a centered tube of pewter and strung with black cord and carnelian beads. The very best of these works exhibit a barbaric splendor akin to the tribal art of early Christian Europe. They read like emblems of office and authority that might be worn by some Mongol or Vandal chieftain, perhaps by Alaric himself on his way to sack Rome. The effect is amplified in the use of handsome, rough-hewn, nude male and female torsos that form part of the centerpiece of the exhibit.
In this reviewer's experience, few jewelry exhibitions have demonstrated with such clarity their conceptual foundations as does the Preservation of the Species series. It communicated lucidly on many levels of related meaning, making successful allusions to aspects of life and art. Each piece consists of a wearable element, which fits into a larger setting executed in similar materials. Together, they are displayed in glass-fronted, wall-hung cases, the largest of which measure about 30 x 40 inches. They are great wings, spreading and rising phoenixlike, with rib-like extensions of metal rod and tubing embracing and paralleling the sweeping forms of the feathers. They are hung with bone and beads, shell and stone. Often a shella stone, a bezel-mounted oval of abalone is centrally located, acting as terminus and focus to the other forms. The effect is heraldic, hierarchic, ceremonial, votive. One is reminded of a which doctor or shaman adorned for supplicant ritual.
Aside from the obvious reference of the series title to its animal materials, the works resonate with other meanings. Each piece in its case communications an iconic presence, like a monstrance or reliquary. Two pieces that include rows of fragile mink skulls remind one of underground burial chambers, their shelves laden with ground burial chambers, their shelves laden with carefully sorted stacks of arm or leg bones, or grinning skulls. Subtle surprises await the careful observer. A bit of snake skin encased behind a cabochon oval of clear stone or delicate insect wings similarly entrapped recall recent discoveries of prehistoric insects fossilized in amber. A mirror, included in each piece for purposes practical to the wearer, nonetheless draws the viewer into an entire complex of ideas.
The overall color of the exhibit is earthen and natural. It is strikingly beautiful in the monastic quiet of its soft, naturally lighted gallery and well worth the reviewer's several visits. With each visit new allusions are discovered, new associations established. The conceptual basis of the series is rife with meaning, the dimensions of which may only be hinted at here.
Carl Oskar Gallery, Kansas City, MO
April 4-30, 1986
by Glenice Lesley Mathews
The sculpture of Jon Havener has undergone subtle changes in the past year. Described as "menacing, powerful, aggressive," his forms hold some of these attributes on first inspection, but, on closer scrutiny, there appears to have been modification in his attitude.
Exhibiting with well-known regional artist Margo Kren, the two complimented each other, making an exciting display. The two-dimensional surfaces of Kren's paintings and prints vibrated with Havener's three-dimensional forms. In many instances, the choice of color is similar and Kren's use of Black Arches paper for much of her work highlights the vibrance of the primary colors both selected to emphasize their compositions. Both Havener and Kren work with an internal frenzy that creates an urgency, which is passed on to the viewer.
Kama Kura (steel and brass) is an excellent example of the interrelationship between the two artists. The large sculpture, which stands approximately five feet high, has black linear lines that become expressive forms, like that of an artist's brush. The form is further expressed by a great slash of bright yellow, some red, red oxide and electric blue elements. A sense of urgency transforms the very linear structure into a volumetric form. By highlighting some of the areas with these brilliant paints, the extension of line is further enhanced.
The use of similar colors and similar techniques for all six sculptures added to the visual impact of the exhibit. Overall, the forms are uplifting with a sense of lightheartedness. Most have phallic overtones—linear forms penetrating the space. Tango (steel and brass) incorporates big volumetric planes, which stand on three or four thin, rodlike legs. All elements thrust upward, giving these large isomorphic components a lightness and unity. As the title suggests, Tango dances in a primitive ritual of delight. Again, the use of color delineates areas and helps to focus attention on the upward sweep of the contours.
Hat Dance (brass and steel) is similar to Tango in its idea of volume in space, but it does not portray the same frivolity. Hat Dance is perceptibly more solid. The use of thin sections of brass and steel repeated over and over to build up a volumetric form is reminiscent of a time-exposure photograph of a dancer holding small lights. The repetition emphasizes motion. The build up of these lines creates lyrical volumes.
Among the dancing giants, Revolution is reminiscent of Havener's earlier sculpture. Revolution has a certain "Star Wars" quality to its structure. The patina is predominately black with just a touch of bright red and red oxide paint on the surfaces. Revolution stands on a tripod, which confers the compact weaponlike feel to the main body of the form.
Havener's sculptures vary in size, up to five feet high. They are all made from sheet metal or found components, like reinforcing mesh that has been torn apart. The sculpture tends to betray his rigorous schooling as a silversmith at Cranbrook and the Cleveland Institute of Art. On close inspection, one can detect many of his learned skills in the massive structures. Although still monumental and powerful, this new series shows a lighter side to Havener's character. Well displayed in the gallery, and complimented by Kren's paintings and prints, this exhibit was an excellent visual statement of an artist whose work is reaching maturity.
Tony Papp: Studies in the Marriage of Metals
Neil Isman Gallery, New York City
April 23-May 3, 1986
by Antonia H. Schwed
This exhibit consisted of over 100 pieces—necklaces, brooches, bracelets, boxes, sculptural forms. I was happy to see that the gallery exhibition area was mot effectively opened up and cleared, so that Papp's works were displayed with good spacing and elegance. This way it was possible to appreciate the cool competence of each beautifully crafted piece.
|Tony Papp. Brooches and Earrings.|
The technique Papp uses, the marriage of metals, is a complex one. To start, he scribes his design unto a basic metal background, usually silver. Then, he cuts out this design meticulously with a jeweler's saw, which results in an open stencilike area. Next, he selects various metals (brass, copper, gold) which he cuts out into the exact shapes needed to the inlaid precisely into the open areas of the design. The finely inlaid metal areas are then soldered together. Finally, the completed metals "painting" is formed and constructed into the flowing, wavelike forms that characterize this jewelry and sculptural work.
Papp's designs are geometric in concept, so that one might think they could all be somewhat similar—checkerboards of metal angles, circles, etc. There is no monotony, however, in these geometric designs; each piece seems to speak for itself. This undoubtedly results also from the forms into which he has incorporated the polished and patinaed areas of married metals. (Papp is a master of patina and this adds richness and variety.)
The small, basically nonfunctional three-dimensional forms I found particularly intriguing, especially the sculptural brass discs. As the saying goes, "bigger is not necessarily better," and a small sculpture that can really make a dent in the space around it is to me a thing of beauty, a real achievement.
There was only one cast piece in the show (no marriage of metals work involved), and that was a handsome necklace. However, I think perhaps the most stunning works in jewelry were the necklaces Navajo and Tantra—the inner circle. Each section of these pieces was different, although all were geometrically patterned and constructed into hollow forms. Among the bracelets, I noted one that, though excellently executed, seemed to me impractical to wear. The display of sterling and nickel boxes was an attractive array.
Tony Papp's skillful work is disciplined into a basic, almost stern beauty, although feeling is there. I have a hunch that he is going on to develop into other areas and that should be interesting to watch.
Ohio Metals Invitational
Hiestand Gallery of Miami University, Oxford, OH
March 1-April 4, 1986
by Robert Benson
Diversity of approach and variety of technique were hallmarks of these Ohio artists. Organized by Associate Professor of Jewelry Design and Metalsmithing Susan Ewing, the show brought a wide spectrum of metalwork to students and the general public for comparative study as well as pure visual enjoyment.
Although technical mastery in enamel was exemplified in several works by Miami Professor Emeritus Helen Worrall and Mary Ellen McDermott of the Cleveland Art Institute, Cincinnatian Mary Klein used precise control to enhance the relationship of enamel to drawing and painting. In a beach scene, called Arc with Decorative Accessories, she fused the rich tonal subtleties of champlevé and the descriptive potential of cloisonné while preserving a traditional sense of ornamental surface. The series Brownstone Landscapes in vitreous enamel by Vivian Bass Kline of Cincinnati, on the other hand, used cuts and attached pieces to convert standard spun vases into miniature urban stagesets that were not always technically successful and sometimes vacuous.
Silver production was also well represented. Susan Ewing's exquisite Teapot in sterling silver and delrin was subtle and understand in form, reversing the curved and angular shape of the flat handle in its sculptural volume, while Calla Lily Soda Spoons of formed sterling silver with goldplate by Christina Baitz-Brandewie of Cincinnati transformed the graceful shape of a flower into elegant, long-handles utensils. Decoration and geometric form interacted provocatively in Marilyn Griewank da Silva's Jot I of raised and fabricated copper and sterling.
Large-scale, forged-steel sculptures by Joseph A. Bonifas of Spencerville were bound to traditional strapwork in craft and imagery, while Jack da Silva of Bowling Green applied abstract form and constructivist composition with relative success in Atkinson Playground Sculpture (shown in maquette).
|Joseph Bonifas, Triomphic Involution|
Forged steel, 1½ x 5′ h.
|Jack da Silva, Atkinson Playground Sculpture|
Jewelry was an especially rich category. A comb by Hannelore Gabriel of Madison in sterling silver, ivory, ebony and pearls recalled the elegant geometry and refinement of the Wiener Werkstaette, while Sterling Charm Necklace by Roberta Williamson of Berea drew on American Indian sources in a less satisfying search for naivete.
|Hannelore Gabriel, Comb|
Sterling silver, ivory ebony, pearls
|Roberta Williamson, Sterling Charm Necklace|
Sterling silver, stones, beads, 32″ l.
Bruce Metcalf of Kent State explored very personal images. Mixed media which employed elements of funk ceramics, folk art and toys, were vehicles for socially critical and autobiographical subject matter. His jewelry, frequently doubling as decorative display, incorporated subtle intimacies within larger gestures. Meaned-up Man and Woman, in brass, silver, aluminum, copper steel and paint, for instance, was a pair of detachable brooches with faces displayed against small panels, decorated with arrows. The panels floated freely on long tendril-like wires that responded to gentle movement and added a kinetic quality that turned images into narrative.
Monumental in impact and conception, Stuart Golder's miniature landscapes in mokume-gane and loom-woven or fabricated gold (Sky and Shrubbery and Range and Beyond) were startling microscosms that contained the delicacy of jewelry and the heroic qualities of nature.
The combination of metalwork with paper and book production (Stu's Sample Book and Mythic Metals) transported the iconography and calligraphic interlacements of Celtic codices into the 20th century.
Frederick Lauritzen Retrospective
Art Gallery, California State University, Northridge, CA
April 21-September 5, 1986
by Carolyn Novin
Frederick Lauritzen started the metals program at California State University, Northridge, 25 years ago. His work is already in many private and public collections, including the Oakland Museum of Art, the Crocker Galleries, the Wichita Museum of Art and the San Diego Museum of Art. This exhibition, a sampling of his graphic work (mainly landscapes) and his metalwork (mainly holloware), honors the teacher and celebrates the growth of the artist.
The earliest work displayed was a sterling silver and rosewood coffee service from the 1950s. The functional form, flawless technique and refined surfaces reflect Lauritzen's respect for Scandinavian design values. This elegant service helped with the artist a Lewis Comfort Tiffany Award, which he used for study with Hans Christensen at the School for American Craftsmen. His focus while there was on eccleciastical metalwork. This ongoing interest is represented by a sterling silver and gold-wash chalice, which is stately and austere, on a conelike stem, flared to a wide circular base.
The circle motif is evidenced by the spherical forms of his metalwork and by the frequent depiction of the sun in his landscapes. One bowl rests upon a cylinder, with chasing and gold granulation suggesting an aerial view of gentle landforms. Another, a lidded bowl, is set on a cylinder decorated with geometric overlay and topped with a plique-à-jour enamel medallion. It is the sole example of Lauritzen's considerable enameling expertise. With each object, the reflection off the unadorned bowl and intricacy of the ornamented base combine symbiotically for heightened effect.
The formal purity of a delicate stem supports the visual mass of Bottle Form, an elongated copper sphere. The top half is pebbled with a matte, electroformed encrustation, which, dappled with a flash of gold lead, cascades over the smooth, highly polished, lower hemisphere. Dichotomous elements combine symmetrically for a weighty impact in Bottle Form, while they play off one another for humorous comment in Pot on Wheels. A darkly gleaming patina of gold leaf and oxides enriches the pot's copper surface. Its organic rotundity balances above a machinelike base, which, with four golden wheels, moves this pot well away from the familiar footed bowl.
Elsewhere, Lauritzen continues to explore other metal forming methods, but the holloware is made by traditional raising techniques. Split Pot is raised and polished, the deformed and cut and, finally, redeemed, with areas that maintain the original refinement. The patina glows from within the entire surface. Its deep luminosity is achieved by subtle layering of gold leaf, acrylic and oxidation. Here, texture augments form through integration and regular patterning of variously sized circular, electroformed units. The result is an object with a history. Balanced on its own integrity, without an added base, it maintains a sense of age and mysterious significance.
Just as the Split Pot reveals its own course of development, this exhibition chronicles the growth of the artist. Lauritzen, Antaeus-like, renews his creative vitality by looking to nature. His fruitful crossover between two- and three-dimensional modes of expression is well demonstrated by this dynamic retrospective.
In general, the viewer responds to the echoes of forms, the resonances of pattern, the synthesis of dualities skillfully held in balance.
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