This article showcases various exhibitions in the form of collected exhibition reviews published in the 1988 Fall issue of the Metalsmith Magazine. This features Antonia von Braun and Ulrika Johansen, Lynda Watson-Abbott, Jamie Abbott, and more!
European Figurative Jewelry: Antonia von Braun and Ulrika Johansen
VO Galeries, Washington, DC
March 17-April 13, 1988
by Komelia H. Okim
This exhibition was the second in a series of figurative jewelry shows at the VO Galeries. Originally organized by V&V Galeries in Vienna, Austria, it was the first time that these two young German jewelers have shown their work in the United States.
Ulrika Johansen’s Sad Monsters, Heart Eater, Devourer, Polecat’s Teeth, Big Mouth, Eye, Snake and Mermaid are pieces that suggest a demonic world view, though allegorical, humorous and androgynous in flavor. The media used are silver, copper, garnet and dabs of epoxy paint and acrylic. Most of her pieces are created with repousséd peapod shapes, showing a strong balance of positive and negative contrasts. They are flat and in low relief, with arrows and spears piercing anatomical details of the combined figures of females and males, The most interesting piece is Devourer, a necklace made with two large pins that can be draped on the shoulders without going around to the back of the neck. Like primitive Eyptian, African and Scythian shoulder pieces, they are wide and cover a large part of the torso. These figures are moveable and connected with simple chased and repousséd pillow forms. The hedonistic creatures are trying to eat and bite one another, with dangling garnets signifying blood. The theme is the game of eating, being eaten or devouring and biting into the heart.
Even if the heart of parts of the figures are eaten, these monsters appear both happy and sad, as sensuality and conscious lust lie at the root of this vicious ritual. All of Johansen’s work depicts the problems of youth, issues dealing with survival, struggle and conformity.
Antonia von Braun is more punk in her feelings toward society. Her box, entitled Brotherhood, shows a boss and men behind him shouting and singing aloud, signifying businessmen who think they are smart and important. Most of her figures are androgynous or angels that look like men with broad chests, big bellies and breats. They are made with either liquid wood called “holzy” mounted on flat silver shapes or simple silver repousséd forms.
A carefully carved and detailed wood box with a decorated lid of crystal and capped with thin silver shapes is titled New York. The artists had never been to New York but has heard of it as the “Ultimate City.” The sides of the box show the upper and lower parts of the city, and the top shows the Crucifixion. Fire scale and traces of solder reveal graphic images of gradations and color variations. The tiny plastic grapes and stones are placed between the metal shapes to let voluptuous ladies in silver counterbalance the weight and playfulness.
Individually and collectively, the works of these two artists provoke strong reactions in the viewer. Last year’s American and this year’s European figurative exhibition both revealed an interest in the problems of contemporary life and drew the viewer lo the issues, which also act as a catharsis for the artists. In American figurative works, color played a dominant role. They were also decorative and technically involved, the craftsmanship taken more seriously, whereas these two German jewelers represent a subculture in Europe that relies on simplisitic colors and minimal techniques to get across a message. The emerging “new-wave” mentality is challenging while also being playful and whimsical.
Lynda Watson-Abbott, Jamie Abbott
April 18-May 13, 1988
Cabrillo College Gallery, Cabrillo College, Aptos, CA
by Stephen Bondi
“All Points,” the title of this joint exhibition, makes reference to the extensive travel shared by these two artists during their joint sabbatical leave. This travel, which consisted of a circuitous driving trip across the United States followed by a month-long trip to Japan, is the concept that unites and makes successful this exhibition of works that otherwise might well be too disparate to show together.
Working from the premise that the creative process is at least in part comprised of the triad of addition, reduction and/or manipulation (used singly or in combination), we see here the application of the additive process in the conceptual sense as well as physical. Both artists have taken the addition of these travels to their lives and used them as the departure point for the body of work presented. The sculptures of Jamie Abbott range in size from 18 inches to well over six feet and are constructed of mixed materials such as wire cloth covered with plaster or found materials including bamboo, wire and slate. It is the use of these materials as well as the images they service that conveys the sense of a cultural experience. Due to the scale of these works relative to the space of the gallery, Abbott presented only those works relating to his Japan trip, utilizing images that make reference to radishes (dicon), Toro Gates and the simple but ingenious techniques of construction that are so unmistakably Japanese.
Lynda Watson-Abbott, on the other hand, is able to give us a much broader view of how she has utilized the travel experiences as creative stimuli or a “jumping-off” point. Because her jewelry is small and precious, there was great potential for its being lost among the more monumentally scaled works of Jamie Abbott. To avoid this, the works were displayed in three simple, freestanding cases that were almost silhouettes of vertical Post Modern buildings. This helped enormously in setting up an autonomy for these works as well as allowing one to see the themes that ran through them.
Peering through the tops/roofs of these cases gave six different views of Watson-Abbott’s travels. For the U.S. portions there were three series: Times and Places, North- South and East-West and from Japan there were. Japan Motifs, Japan-Tradition/ Technology and Fragments With Influences. Throughout these pieces was evidence of Watson-Abbott’s continued interest in the quality of color as offered by permanent markers in conjunction with more traditional jewelry “color” materials such as metals and stones. We also see her continuing investigation in the use of these elements not in a purely formalistic application but in a dialectic expression of experiential stimuli.
From the “East-West” series, two particularly intriguing and contrasting pieces are East-West, DC/NM and East-West, CO/TN. In …DC/NM, the literal image of the Jefferson Memorial of Washington, D.C. is combined with formica, treated as a New Mexico Indian baking oven. The complex architectonic nature of the Jefferson Memorial image has been sensitively offset not only by the naturalistic complexity of the formica but also by the addition of small metal components onto and into the material. While the Jefferson Memorial presents the viewer with “closed” and finite information, the oven with Watson-Abbott’s additions gives us an “open” context whereby we are asked to bring to it our own interpretations. In contrast is East-West, CO/TN, which is much less literal in its overall format.
Here a more abstract and formal composition is constructed with a recognizable vocabulary. The freeform sawed edge, offset by straight, hard edges, reflects the undulating repousséd surface representing mountain ranges. Here, again, is a subtle play of contrasting colors and surfaces. On the one hand, there are soft, rolling mountains, delicately colored with light green permanent markers, giving the sense of the natural flora one would find blending into craggier high-altitude mountains. These “above timberline” peaks are also accentuated with color, in this case, from the use of pale greenish blue high-cabachon moonstones. One particularly interesting aspect of this piece is the manner in which Watson-Abbott juxtaposed contrasting two- and three-dimensional approaches. On the surface of the rolling green hills are strong two-dimensional red dash marks, which might well be indicating paths or trails. As these marks carry into the craggier mountains, they become subordinate to the three-dimensional “play” between the rich surface and form of these mountains and the smooth counterpoints of the moonstones.
In the pieces reflecting her trip to Japan, Watson-Abbott has set up a visual vocabulary that is, logically, more culturally than geographically oriented. Undoubtedly the geographical differences of Japan made a marked impression on her, but, not unusually, she was most impressed with the new culture. In Japan Motifs #3, there is an interesting complement to the much larger works of Jamie Abbott. Both have used what we have come to accept as a “traditional” Japanese vocabulary of materials/ techniques (i.e., bamboo, small delicate leaves, lashing and simple systemic patterns). However, in Watson Abbott’s case, there is a preciousness of concept and understanding brought in by the factor of scale as well as the preciousness of materials. This piece, though abstract and formal in organization, with it’s use of the circle, rectangle, chevron pattern and negative triangles, still projects its inception as being Japanese in influence. Japan-Tradition/Technology #3, on the other hand, shows a much more intellectual and analytical reflection on the new cultural experience.
Here is the traditional Japanese scroll with its lovely subtle brushwork in quietly contrasting blacks, gold and silver set upon a ricepaper background with a natural wood frame. All is quiet and harmonious until we delve into the information presented on the scroll. Upon doing so, we are immediately brought into the late 20th century, if not the dawning of the 21st, by a finely and meticulously etched image of a new “super” stereo. This image immediately brings to mind all of our current obsessions with Japanese culture and technology as well as where they will/may take us in the future. For me, this may be the most profound piece in the exhibition, as it forces one to confront and reflect on a multitude of current geo-political issues.
A final highlight to the works of Watson-Abbott were three refreshing watercolor drawings. In this time when there seems to be a compulsiveness to justifying one’s “art/metalwork” by the cliche insertion or combination of the object with a drawing or some other “accepted” art form, it was a pleasure to encounter drawings and objects created for their own sake and without pretense.
Glenda Arentzen: A Retrospective
Aaron Faber Gallery, New York City
May 4-June 11, 1988
by Antonia H. Schwed
A retrospective of 102 pieces, spanning 25 years, is bound to encourage a historical mapping in the evolution of an artist’s skill and design. For instance, a wooden box shocked me until I learned that it was one of the very first things that Glenda Arentzen made as a student of Earl Pardon at Skidmore College. The box (first exhibited at “Young Americans” in 1962), inlaid with an enamel top, does indeed represent beginning student work. I guess it goes to show that enamels have come a long way. At any rate, it served to highlight the beautiful silver and gold box done in 1986, included in the same case. This small, round box has silver on the exterior surface that is skillfully folded and textured to look like heavy fabric. The inside is gold, set with twinkling cubic zirconias.
Arentzen’s amusing Fingertips are small fabricated caps for the lingers. These little, humorous objects of gold and silver are listed as “part of a set called All the Things a Witch Might Want.” Notable as well was a lovely gold pin set with a blue, orange and white diamond. The pin itself was formed of angular, irregular little beams of textured and nontextured gold, joined together to create a small, light sculptural construction.
Two large wall cases contained jewelry done in 1987 and 1988—work that went from delicate to almost massive—all made with great artistry. Although the past work was interesting, the newest work stole the show with its vigor, development and freedom of design. I especially admired a vermeil necklace of airy fabricated spheres, I can just imagine this piece almost frothing around the wearer’s neck.
Among the heavier pieces was a handsome gold-and-silver bracelet set with flat, squarish boulder opals of different sizes. The overall design of the bracelet was angular, avoiding curves and giving a dramatic, almost chaotic look; but, this was an artful, intentional chaos that one might find in geological upheaval. Another outstanding piece was a silver necklace, deceptively simple, consisting of large, flat, odd-shaped links, the surfaces of which had been hand textured. I also enjoyed an unusual silver chain, textured by sandblasting, and looking like rope translated into metal.
In addition to all the above, Arentzen displayed four prize-winning pieces, a selection of designs made for manufacture and part of a designer collection for Aiwa, Tokyo. She also introduced her new series of Door designs—mostly pins, except for a couple of pendants—which are not as abstract as are her other pieces in this rich panorama of her distinguished work.
Margaret Barnaby: Jewelry
Susan Cummins Gallery, Mill Valley, CA
April 4-30, 1988
by Roberta Floden
Each piece of Margaret Barnaby’s jewelry is nothing less than an aquatic extravaganza. With nature’s mystery as her inspiration, Barnaby’s organic forms, unexpected materials and gemstones float effortlessly like marine life on the sea floor. And just like walking along the tidelines, every time your vision travels around her pieces you find something provocative.
Barnaby’s cuffs, unlike the more conventional necklaces and earrings, show off her technical resources and give her sufficient visual space to explore her ideas and experiment with myriad materials. Each cuff is a bold collage of textures, shapes and colors. On one, for example, Barnaby has juxtaposed fragmented red coral (held in place by kelplike gold strands), uncut matteblue chrysocolla (cradled in a gold shell) and peachpink biwa pearls on a silver base, repousséd and chased with sea symbols. On others, there might be a combination of tourmaline, white quartz, slices of agate, garnet, opal, amethyst, prenite, charolite, rhodolite, chrysoprase and even an occasional banal diamond.
Like miniature sea chests full of hidden treasure, her cuffs are an endless source of discovery. For example, unexpected tiny, incised, organic shapes crawl beneath transparent cut gemstones (an intriguing device and one of Barnaby’s favorites) on shiny gold surfaces or inside shells. Teethlike protrusions protect delicate pearls.
Bivalves house uncut semiprecious stones. Inside a silver clam shell may sit a sea creature, a filament of gold kelp, a gemstone or barnacles. One carefully tooled gold cuff highlights a green beryl by Bernd Munsteiner; another, Night on the Lake, a gold necklace of marine-life forms, accentuates a translucent agate by Dieter Lorenz.
Another bravura device of Barnaby’s is to use the reflective qualities of highly polished surfaces to mirror the hidden sides of gemstones and coral and give the illusion of unfolding patterns in space. This rich play of textures invites closer examination, to look for even more secret places and treasures.
The careful detailing and control that Barnaby exhibits over each aspect of her complicated pieces indicates that a master of arrangement, shape, rhythm and critical balance is at work. Certainly, the world of the sea floor has seldom been rendered so ostentatiously—or been interpreted with such virtuosity.
Billie Jean Theide: It’s Not Always Black and White
Kirkland Fine Arts Center Studio Gallery, Millikin University, Decatur, IL
February 29-March 11, 1988
by Timothy Garvey
That Billie Jean Theide’s works are carefully fabricated metal constructions before they are bracelets, mirrors or brooches seems clear from the statement offered to accompany this show. She speaks of these recent objects as responses to journeys and explorations, records of personal thoughts and relationships and celebrations of “negative situations viewed positively.” Although concluding that the pieces should “ideally” combine esthetic and conceptual impulses with their ostensible function, the more autobiographical character of the work appears dominant and its functional identity far less crucial.
The personal associations that Theide describes comes through forcefully in the work—especially among those pieces suggesting relationships, the formal combinations in Long Distance and Long Distance III. Each of these pieces (a hand mirror and bracelet, respectively) consist of a smaller satellite element attached to, yet distanced from, larger central components. The dialogue between the two segments is in each case reinforced by a familial resemblance between large and small parts. In Long Distance, the circular glass of the mirror is echoed by the gold ring of the satellite, while in Long Distance III, the smaller component is a green sphere visually akin, both in shape and color, to the ring of the bracelet from which it projects.
At the same time, however, the kinship of parts in these works involves certain contradictions that enhance the dialogue. Despite their resemblance, the smaller elements constitute radical departures from their larger bases. The mirror Long Distance, for example, is encased within a triangular blue base, the reflective glass centered in the larger form above a serrated lower edge and framed by silver rivets deployed along a vertical axis. To this nicely symmetrical base, the satellite is appended in a manner destroying all balance. A black and violet spine is fixed obliquely to one edge, weighting the right side of the work; and projecting from the upper end of this addition is the arc of black wire that curls away to the golden ring.
Likewise, in Long Distance, a comparable symmetry found in the body bracelet is utterly broken by the projecting arc supporting its smaller sphere; and although both bracelet and ball are green, in this case, the former is a vivid metallic hue while the latter is mottled and comparatively dull. The result is a dialogue more argumentative than conversational. By presenting a static base and then attaching components contradicting the symmetry of their foundation, Theide creates work that succeed both in visual terms and as evocations of personal relationships.
Theide’s objects do have the capacity to function as jewelry or mirror or container. However, the works tread the line separating the functional from the visually compelling cautiously. The pieces are not simply small sculpture, for their uses are clear; yet they are not genuinely useful, for utility is clearly less important then other visual and personal concerns that contribute to their design.
Theide’s works, as she suggests, are indeed neither black nor white. Rather, they offer—and draw their strength from—contradictions. Potential symmetry is denied by the introduction of disruptive elements creating meaningful formal imbalance. The works are clearly sculptural, but equally referential to more functional traditions. In their carefully balanced opposition of features and concerns, her works demand thoughtful reconciliation rather than simple recognition.
Two Views in Metal: Roger Snyder, John Wittersheim
Stubnitz Gallery, Adrian College, Adrian, MI
by Lisa Norton
“Two Views in Metal” offers a look at the work of two metalsmiths who are engaged in the making of sculpture that re-presents artifacts associated with vanishing Americana. Much of their fascination derives from the simplicity and grace that our culture retrospectively assigns to antiquated objected indigenous to the rural and early industrial American experience. Reverence for the craftsman, the farmer, the work ethic and its inherent byproduct are themes that the works of Snyder and Wittersheim share. These artists differ in their sensibility and approach to a process aimed at the “rescue” of these vanishing ideals and artifacts. The act of reclamation speaks of a confidence in that value system. Their repositioning to an art context speaks of their obsolescence.
Snyder’s work enshrines an era prior to the corporate farm. His artworks, surrogates for the predictable cash crop, are romantic dramatizations of the ongoing elimination of the small, family-run farm by conglomerate farmers. Although this emotionally charged regional issue affects the politics and economics of the entire nation, it is not fully understood by the average urban American. Snyder’s visual approach regretfully mimics the nostalgic aspects of farm life, creating narratives that expose the threat imposed by the corporate system.
A set of two works entitled Idealism and Realism, work in tandem, describing an idealized version of the past and its subsequent destruction. Both works use a pitchfork as their basis. The pitchforks are hung from the ceiling in a horizontal position, denying the familiar vertical orientation and the inherent tool/earth connection. Idealism presents a clean, unused pitchfork cradling a scaled-down corn crib in its tines. The tines reference an outstretched hand and, in their horizontal orientation, suggest rows of crops. Realism describes its opposition, with “rough hewn” miniature 4x4s diminishing in size along its handle, creating a false perspective evocative of time, distance, loss. This pitchfork has been “weathered,” and the barn that rests in its tines is violently pierced by the tines of another pitchfork, minus its handle.
These stylized, archetypal renderings evoke a winsome and sentimental image—a foil to the logic of capitalism. However, they don’t enlighten the uninitiated viewer to the complexities of the farmer’s situation, nor do they offer a sense of hope, beyond nostalgic empathy. The romanticized image of the farm as the last bastion of unspoiled wholesomeness masks the reality of its systematic and integral function within commodity production. I wished for more associative meaning, beyond stylization. Many of Snyder’s works employ an aerial view perspective lending a poignant sense of omnipotence. This sense of powerlessness and urgency could be heightened.
The works of John Wittersheim share this reverence for the past, specifically early industrial artifacts. This body of work incorporates the found object while altering its original function and context. Wittersheim “rescues” simple discarded industrial components and recombines them, often with precise, machine-tooled parts of his own making, in order to create a hybrid that is formally elegant and ambiguous in origin. The obsolete quality of the cast iron remnants contrasts oddly with the precision of lathe-turned granite and aluminum additions.
Central to Wittersheim’s investigations into tool use and development has been the infinite variety of forms, both industrial and handmade, that make use of simple principles of physics. Devices such as the plumb bob illustrate his interest in the tool as an extension of the craftsman, and the logical beauty of a form-follows-function esthetic. The logical order of the physical world provides the starting point for these small sculptural works, many of which embody the mystery of objects in an antique tool museum. In recombination, these fragments take on an ambiguity, their titles hinting at their former function and dubious origin.
Shock Wrench, for example, a rusted cast iron part has been painted with bright blue enamel paint and joined with lathe-turned aluminum and steel elements, creating a new whole that calls to mind a suspended crestlike form suggesting the formality of much Celtic metalwork. This grouping of work, reminiscent of arms and weaponry, creates juxtapositions of nostalgic and incomplete objects—simple cranks, gears and tools of outmoded industry, which function as in a holding area for the obsolete. These objects capitalize on the serene elegance that is created when their function is abstracted.
Both groups of work rely on the assumed dignity of the work ethic and its implied value system. A sign in the gallery reads, “Please do not touch the metalworks.” Within the context of this exhibition, this ironic removal to the art gallery is exaggerated. The simple tools of farming and industry are arrested from motion, fixed within the art object.
David Jaworski: Recent Works
Artifice Gallery, St. Louis, MO
March 6-31, 1988
By Teresa Callahan
Perhaps the ultimate attestation to an artist’s ability is that the realization of his efforts is actualized with seemingly apparent ease. In many cases, the consummate technician’s expertise is demonstrated through his selective restraint regarding superfluous excess.
In Recent Works David Jaworski displays a small selection of sterling silver earrings, neckpieces, pins and a bracelet. Primarily a sculptor, he shows two pieces of bronze sculpture adorned with blown glass. In most of this work, the artist explores several variations of the helicoid, Jaworski’s pursuit of novel composition conjoins his employment of hollow forming techniques. His superbly finished structures are simple, uncluttered and lyrical, with just enough movement to resist tedium. Each piece is meticulously constructed, replete with a mirror finish to emphasize its dynamic articulation. While the jewelry is of a high caliber, it is surely marketable. Pearls adorn some pieces, but the most successful statements are stark and absolutely devoid of surface ornamentation.
The signs of a superb technician are present throughout all the jewelry, but the artist in Jaworski emerges in the neckpieces. These pieces literally vibrate with a serene, naive resonance. In an effort to hide latches and various engineering elements within the junction of collars and pendants, Jaworski unwittingly breathes life into these neckpieces. The intersections resemble twiglike boundaries appointed with an exquisitely sensitive touch. This flourish lends primal quality to the work. Additionally, these pieces possess the spiritual punch of a pure, sterling white surface. The strong, unwavering line quality reveals the inner confidence, and sensitive nature of the maker.
Lance is a larger piece of sculpture that portrays a bronze helicoid spiraling upward, being pierced by a spear shaped piece of blown striated glass. The glass treatment is visually exciting, resembling the cross section of a brilliant agate.
Spectral Fragments, being more controlled, is less successful. It too features bronze and glass perched atop a black marble base. This piece incorporates an electric light source that illuminates the glass from within. The hollow bronze resembles petals and yields a static visual effect. Jaworski is more effective when he explores movement and is most effective when he allows the viewer a glimpse of his essential nature.
Phillip Baldwin: Bladesmith
National Ornamental Metal Museum, Memphis, TN
March 11-May 8, 1988
By Linda Lindeen Raiteri
Most of the blades in Phillip Baldwin’s first one-person show at the National ornamental Metal Museum are of pattern welded steel. Since the nature of museum installations often sabotages a tactile appreciation of the work (feeling the blade, its unity, sharpness, smoothness, the way the weight is or is not distributed from blade tip to handle end), the only suitable critical approach is to recognize visual comparisons. For example, the juxtaposition of the knife Tooth (1979), with the smaller Ladytooth (1980), both with purple heartwood sheaths and handles, trimmed with silver and brass, and simple, folded steel blades suggests a sleek, contemporary tandem.
In contrast, Fortune Dagger (1983), with hearts placed on the inverted heart-shaped pommel and on the copper ricasso, evokes the twistings of late in the twistings of the laminates to create a double-swirl pattern. While, on the pattern-welded, steel blade of the tomahawk Blackheart (1986), the pattern swirls like water, then stills at the cutting edge.
In Oriental Kitchen Set (1985), Baldwin has used the mokume process on brass and copper to create a wood grained pattern in the blade’s of the cleaver and two knives. Each blade pattern is different and the three are held to a relationship by similarity of the handles.
In the Knife and Fork Eating Set exhibited for the first lime, abalone glints from the wenge wood handles made by Jim Kelso as if to remind the user of the substance within. The iridescence of the abalone contrasts in color with the marbleized design of the pattern-welded knife blade and fork.
The newest piece is Ultimate Slicer II (1988), curved for leverage from hilt to tip with a series ovals, pattern welded into the steel blade and finished-out in sterling silver on a handle of fossilized walrus ivory. Appreciation of Baldwin’s work is enhanced by an understanding of the precision and forethought that go into the creation of blades by the techniques of pattern welding.
Susan Cummins Gallery, Mill Valley, CA
by Roberta Floden
Evidence of stronger sculptural forms is apparent in the current jewelry of Sandra Enterline. Minimalist in design, her hollow form brooches and earrings are assuming a non- referential monumentality. Upon closer inspection, however, Enterline’s jewelry is not entirely devoid of literal or symbolic content. Obviously, it is her purpose to restrict her designs to essentials, but beneath her variations on soft-edged geometry are bold allusions to ritual objects, boats, farm tools and urns.
The linear proportions of Enterline’s brooch series are dramatically exaggerated (some of them are over 10 inches long) and have a certain expressive physicality. Yet, they are lightweight and surprisingly graceful, with clean uncluttered lines that allow them to adorn the body elegantly. When worn, the brooches engage the space around them and the elements work together to emphasize form and reflection.
Her textured surfaces forcefully capture the viewer’s attention. Made by filing silver, brass or bronze, and then dipping the pieces in oxides, these surfaces reveal all their scratched irregularities. The result is a rich, colorful iridescent patina, often bluish purple with gold highlights. The patina is especially compelling when accompanied by Enterline’s gold details and irregular spines, the gold is not changed by the oxides and is yellow color emphasizes the patina’s shimmering quality.
Her earrings, often large wheels, funnels or urns, are fashionably unmatched, emanating from each earring of a pair are different numbers of delicate gold spines of unequal length. Though not oversized for today s earrings, they make bold statements and, like the brooches, capture the chance effects of light as the wearer moves.
The juxtaposition of the irresistible patina, the gently swollen curves of the simple forms, the accentuating gold spines and especially the restrained yet theatrical size of the pieces commend the fresh quality of Enterline’s work. Her simplicity does not preclude expressiveness. Enterline’s jewelry has emotional power, of an archaic, theatrical presence, with antecedents in ceremonial jewelry and the shiny, crisp profiles of modern tools and equipment.
Sam Farmer: Texture as Symbol
Wichita Art Association, Wichita, KS
March 20-April 17, 1988
by Glenice Lesley Matthews
”Texture As Symbol” is the culmination of a year’s preparation and exploration Centered around three themes (which Farmer pushes to the limits), scuba diving, a fascination for Africa and focus on the space program, the literal translations are held together by using texture and marriage of metals in a thought provoking statement.
In the African series, it is the grasslands, the shapes of native artifacts and the atmospheric qualities of the environment that provoke Farmer’s imagery Sunrise Over the Serengeti is the thesis of an inspired group of pieces perhaps the most stunning of the exhibit. A double shield shaped brooch of 14k white and yellow gold, sterling and pave set diamonds demonstrates Farmer’s precisionlike mastery of the marriage-of-metals technique. Several sets of earrings complement and continue this theme. In particular, a pair also called Sunrise Over the Serengeti made of 14k gold, sterling, star rose quartz and black onyx takes on the mysterious persona of a Masai standing behind a shield, spear in hand.
More abstract is the dynamic Pin/Object- Shield of sterling and nickel set with moonstone. It conjures up the image of a group of powerful warriors padding silently through the grassland.
It is these patterns of waving grasses, executed through marriage of metals, that transfer on to the series of Ichthy forms. Now the imagery can be perceived as seaweed and/or the patterns formed on the ocean floor by wave movement, or, again, as surf on the water’s edge. Here Farmer has added cuttlebone casting to the elements that become the finished item. The neckpiece Estuary, combines 14k yellow gold, sterling, labradorite, star rose quartz and nickel white. Drifting Along the Tepid Water, Deep within the Jungle uses sterling silver, nickel, copper, lapis lazuli and citrine and Zebra Ray is made of 14k gold, sterling, nickel and onyx. Although each unit is a separate component in these pieces, because of Farmer’s lyric interpretation, they become a cohesive assemblage.
My Holy Flying Mackerel Sometimes Shoots the Moon, of 14k gold, sterling, moonstone, transfers one’s attention from the ocean floor to the heavens and Moonrise I, Moonrise II and Drift are fine examples of the use of texture to define imaginary space.
Farmer in his exhibit statement, says “he likes to dream.” On viewing the exhibit, technique, methodology and superb craftsmanship are generally forgotten for the sheer beauty and mystique of the fine presentation. So, we too are allowed to dream and respond to the symbolic timelessness.
Anne Krohn Graham: Light and Movement
Perkins Student Center Gallery, University of Delaware, Newark, DE
September 10-25, 1987
by Jan Peters
The University of Delaware Fine Arts and Exhibitions Committee invited Anne Krohn Graham to have this solo exhibit as part of the inaugural ceremonies for the new university president. The design and execution of the entire show of 43 pieces from invitational artwork to installation were hers.
There were three small freestanding cases in the center of the gallery, but most of the work was worn by gray mannequins, contrasting body form with the geometric format of the jewelry. Large (16 x 20) black-and-white photographs mounted on the walls totally integrated the gallery space. They showed the same jewelry from an alternate view or orientation, thereby enhancing understanding of form and function and inviting the viewer to try on each piece. Thus, one could feel the ease with which a rather stiff-looking piece could be comfortably worn, well-balanced and almost weightless. The photos, as artful as her jewelry, and also for sale, were color-enhanced by Graham to give a strikingly accurate representation.
Many pieces had multiple functions. Linear emphasis characterized the body—sculpture group of neck-waist, wrist/ankle and calf/arm sets fabricated in aluminum rod. Each functions equally well around the designated body parts. Graham says the calf piece Circus could be worn jogging; leg muscles conform to the bent perpendicular shape. It is secured in place by sight tension and is, in fact, extraordinarily comfortable. Some pieces were designed to interrelate off the body and do succeed in standing alone as table sculpture. On a monumental scale one can visualize these maquettes as outdoor sculpture. A group of framed pendants included Safari Metro, consisting of two textured squares set on the diagonal and connected by a bead blasted sterling silver bar, which receives through tubes triple strands of rubber to circle the neck. All were housed in a square frame for wall presentation. Some of Graham’s newest work is a series of “earplates”: large, textured shieldlike forms fitted with rotating french wires which can also be worn over a fabric edge. She creates interest though the inventive use of multiple colors in a muted cross-hatched pattern, reminiscent of the architectural patterns and urban structures that inspire her.
Earlier pieces relied primarily on form for their visual impact. Now her work is also about color and detail. Experiments with the aluminum dying process led Graham to develop techniques using stencils, airbrush and a variety of dyes. She creates geometric patterns in color on patterns of negative space or patterns photoetched into the metal, integrating color with surface and form. She can use colors ordinarily not associated with aluminum, such as while, because of her special technique of application. Graham plans her geometric forms from inception using paper model construction. The dying process, however, is a dynamic one in which she responds to the cannotative quality of each color before adding another. Thus, her work is vital, spontaneous and fresh. Even the initiate wonders how Graham has achieved her color effects. Some are very soft and subtle, contrasting with hard geometric edges, while others are jarring and trendy. Some new pectorals, however, are achromatic, the gray, black and/or white giving them simplicity and elegance.
“My wearable pieces respond to a deep instinct best described by the Japanese word ‘basara’ . . . analogous to the sense of beauty that compels a person to surprise people with a showy, lively attire.” Indeed Graham’s pieces are exuberant and energetic, surprising and delightful, not unlike the artist herself.
Masters of Ceremony: Designers of New Judaica
B’nai B’rith Klutznick Museum, Washington, DC
October 6, 1987-January 31, 1988
by Renee Goldin
This was a momentous show for those involved with any aspect of contemporary Judaica. Numerous media were represented: wood, glass, fiber, clay, metal and even cut paper, but metals dominated the show.
The glory of “Masters of Ceremony,” in addition to its clever title, is that it demonstrates that the Jewish ritual object is being more widely considered in terms of contemporary techniques and esthetics. Also encouraging was the participation of metalsmiths who became known for their jewelry and holloware and have now begun seriously to address the specialized area of Jewish ceremonial art. To see traditional ritual objects interpreted with the diverse creativity of David Paul Bacharach, Fred Fenster, Pat Flynn, Stanley Lechtzin and Munya Avigail Upin was a special privilege. Because of the importance of this exhibition, it is not surprising to see the contributions of metalsmiths whose names have been exclusively associated with Judaica for years: Kurt Matzdorf, the late Ludwig Wolpert, Chava Wolpert, Moshe Zabari and Bernard Bernstein. In addition, other new and young talents are being attracted to the field, as evidenced by the contributions of Frann Addison and Barbara Bronstein. A number of Israeli metalsmiths with excellent training have made their presence and work known in America during recent years; many of whom are also represented in this show. I hope that one of the achievements of this exhibition, and of this review, will be to attract other talented artists to the field, as well as to attract more patronage.
The items in the show included categories of artifacts that an observant Jew might own for personal use at home. Some are used in the synagogue. Except for Torah pointers, no other items for dressing the Torah were included, either textile or metal, no eternal light or synagogue menorah. The absence of these major categories may indicate that the artists have not educated themselves sufficiently to attempt these possibilities, or have thought primarily in terms of objects that are most easily sold. This may explain the large number of mezuzahs shown.
Many people who saw this exhibition felt that some of the items defied their presumptive use by being large or nonfunctional. If the works were being considered by an Orthodox Jew rather than a craft writer, in all likelihood the majority of the works would be rejected at the outset. There are various halachic (legal) requirements for these artifacts, some extremely obscure, that are represented by the religious—for instance, that a prayer shawl be a minimum width in order to be considered valid. According to some, the tablets of the law must be depicted as cubic rather than arched slabs of stone, some adhere to the dictum that a menorah can only be made of metal and must have all the candleholders on the same plane, with one “servant” raised above the others. Thus, all the ceramic menorahs, as well as those whose candleholders vary from this prescription, would be considered unacceptable. It is well known that the Reform and Conservative movements of Judaism allow for more creativity and more variation from strict legal forms. They also extend greater patronage to the arts.
Space allows only the discussion of a Jew objects in this rich show; and so I will deal with pieces by makers not covered by Bernard Bernstein in his recent article “The Jewish Ceremonial Object,” Metalsmith, Summer 87. Upon entering the exhibition, I was urgently attracted by the work of Barbara Bronstein—two sets of candlesticks and a ceremonial wine cup, all in sterling silver. Although absent of any literal indicators of Judaism, these forms convey the essence of the ritual object. They are variations on the same theme: simple strong forms, enhanced by a sweeping diagonal line. In terms of the candleholders, the attitude of flight brings forth the poetic suggestion of outreach towards the “Sabbath bride.” An additional virtue of the diagonal line is that it suggests the hand of the user embracing the vessel and protecting the kindling flame of the Sabbath candles.
Zelig Segal, an Israeli, has fashioned a yahrtzeit (memorial candle) container from a single sheet of metal; it is horizontally pierced, with a pocket pulled from the sheet (as if it had been clay or other plastic material) forming a place in which to set the little wax-filled glasses solo commercially as memorial candles. The concave back forms a reflector for the flame and contains applied metal Hebrew letters forming the word “Remember.” The piece is made of silver plated brass, and the letters appear to be gold plated. The piece is so highly polished that it is, unfortunately, difficult to discern the inscription because of the glare. If, perhaps, the portion behind the letters had been sandblasted to reduce the shine and the letters oxidized rather than gilded, the statement could be more readily grasped. The design is nevertheless a paradigm of elegance.
In terms of elegance, Dorothy Gutfeld has produced a Chanukah menorah in silver-plated brass that exemplifies that term. It consists of five descending half-circular arches of equal height, of substantial metal sheet, in successive back-to-front orientation, capped with tubular candleholders. The shamash, or servant, is centered upon the rear plate, the four other plates bear pairs of candleholders, one to each side. This is the ultimate menorah form in terms of a minimalist Bauhaus expression. Though some might curse the very wax that dares to drip upon this surface, and others will think that the austerity of this design compromises its warmth, this Platonic ideal of a Chanukah candelabrum is to my thinking a spectacular piece.
A small Havdalah spice container by Bernard Bernstein consists of a rosewood foot suggestive of the base of a chesspiece, and a tuliplike top of folded and textured silver. Its cross-sectional profile is that of a six-pointed star. The base of the tulip curves inward like the flower itself, and its would-be calyx consists of negative space that also forms a six-pointed star. Within the flowerlike head is a spice receptacle topped with a small crown made of pierced Hebrew lettering that is its cover. The meaning of Havdalah is “separation,” implying the termination of the holy day (Sabbath) and the beginning of the secular week. The two materials used within this piece, rosewood and silver, also express this separation in a unified way, with a matching of scale, a matching of curves.
The single ritual artifact that most Jews are likely to own is a mezuzah, a small narrow container, usually made of metal, ceramic, wood, etc., that holds a scroll with a passage from Deuteronomy. This is, as the passage instructs, fastened onto one’s doorpost. There are numerous mezuzahs in this exhibition, executed in various materials. Among the most interesting are two whimsical, bejeweled creations by Barbara Stanger in various colors of metal, depicting the buildings of Jerusalem.
The B’nai B’rith Klutznick Museum, which has been described as the finest small museum in Washington, has done justice to such a compliment. With this exhibition the curator, Gayle Weiss, has acknowledged and celebrated the rapidly expanding interest in contemporary Jewish ritual art as a vehicle for both creative involvement of artists and appreciation of collectors. The overall quality of the work is excellent and reflects the increasing participation of serious craftspeople in what was once a quite esoteric pursuit.
Masterworks of Colonial Silver from the Museo Isaac
Fernandez Blanco, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, NM
January 16-April 10, 1988
Center for the Fine Arts, Miami, FL
by Elizabeth Skidmore Sasser
Silver objects, symbols of worldliness and wealth to the New Mexican settlers, were humble products of silversmiths working in the urban communities of Mexico and South America. With mines capable of producing silver in unimagined quantities, skilled metal craftsmen were among those to sail on the first ships from Spain. The Indians, who had practiced advanced methods of metallurge long before the intrusion of Europeans, were taught to use the unfamiliar tools and to adopt Renaissance motifs that would appeal to Spanish taste. In the exhibition, however, some of the most appealing work is the result of an infusion of New World genre and local customs.
A domestically indeispensible item was the cup for drinking yerba mate; it was traditionally accompanied by a bombilla, or straw, originally made from a hollow cane, which was gradually replaced by a tube of chased silver with a filter of gold or silver wires. Among the natives, mate was sipped from the bottom half of a gourd. The Spanish wrapped the gourd in silver bands until, in the 18th-century, the shell was completely concealed by a silver casing. A lite 19th-century mate cup, upheld by three mermaids, discarded the gourd altogether, allowing only the shape in cast and chiseled silver to linger. Perfumers were luxury items often designed in the form of animals or fowls. Native turkeys were allowed to hobnob with peacocks, and llamas took their place with deer.
Among the utilitarian needs provided for by the fine silver work were horse gear, stirrups-small silver slippers for ladies, long shawl pins like the topos worn in the Andes, candlesticks, tableware and travel frames for religious paintings. The exhibition brought together such church requirements as monstrances, candelabras, tabernacles, ornamental plaques, wine jugs, chalices, censers, holy water vessels and even a life sized wooden angel with gigantic silver wings. The techniques most frequently employed were cast and chiseled silver, perforated and filigreed work, repoussé combined with chiseled metal, and the embellishment of silver with stones and gold.
In the preface to the exhibition catalogue, Adolfo Luis Ribera explained that today little remains of the wealth of silver once mined in South America; but the memory of such riches is preserved in the colloquial expressions, “it’s worth a Peru” or “it’s worth a Potosi.” Modern metalsmiths who have the opportunity to examine the virtuosity of workmanship and the inventiveness of the silversmiths in the Spanish colonies will find the experience worth both “a Potosi” and “a Peru.”