Review of the Opulent Project at Gallery Loupe

A Wrap Up:  The Opulent Project

By Misha Kahn

Apologies for the time lapse on this review; in movie like form, Kellie and I ran into each other at JFK, and I got bumped and rerouted to go with her to New Orleans for Christmas – so the distraction was mutual, and now fully rested, we’re ready to blog! 

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As always, there’s something wonderful and challenging about viewing work from younger artists. Usually the challenge is that you start striking connections between your own work and your peers with whom you have a charged relationship, unsure if the direction is valid or progressive.  In this case, Meg Drinkwater and Erin Gardner’s reverence to antiquated ornament is one I can relate to and struggle with myself.  In contemporizing their chosen forms they bring in some exciting new ideas about how jewelry fits into American society.  The work steers clear of gaudy – and even finds a way to present ornament as non-ornament in a sense (hint: paint the wall to match your own ornament to achieve this affect at home!)

The wallpapered wall in a print of a patterned cube in perspective – a familiar pattern of Italian marble floors and a reoccurring visual reference of the likes of Babetto and other Padovan goldsmiths – begs the question of whether the wall itself was as singular piece, or simply a clever way to display the scattered and camouflaged pieces. This optical challenge played into one of my favorite types of unconventional display in the field; I like to call this “find the jewelry,” where the viewer is forced to approach and interact more closely with objects through some sort of slight trickery.  With jewelry’s small scale, it can be hard to draw people in close enough to really examine a singular piece individually.  With that said, Drinkwater and Gardner’s installation was a fairly effective ploy to get the viewer to look more closely at each jewel. Like chameleons, earrings were powder coated and painted with the same geometric pattern of the wallpaper.

The choice of this almost Escher-esque parquet as a two-dimensional formal reference was strong, as the work feels young and a bit op-arty even though it’s a much older pattern, allowing it to be paired more logically with the silhouettes of the jewelry.

During the show opening, Erin swooped in to show me how the necklaces and earrings can share parts, with pendants from one necklace able to de-attach and clip onto the companion earrings.  Another necklace had a brooch pin on the back with a detachable chain.

This transformation was both engaging and humorously aware of the current economic recession (not sure that contemporary jewelry and the economy are so entangled, but at least it’s paying attention). Somehow this sentiment of frugality also leads into the thought that to own one necklace or ring from the wall was to own part of something larger.  No one wearer could solely own the entirety of this work – one has to willingly accept that your piece relates to others, as all the pieces share parts of the larger pattern.  At least to my naïve eyes, I think American culture is becoming slightly more okay with a transforming sense of the individual. The new individual understands their uniqueness through a lens of being part of a larger group – which is how the jewelry on this wall related to each other.

The plastic laser cut earrings also on exhibition exist in an interesting place in the context of the high priced world of art jewelry; a work you can take home for around $30 shares a roof with other objects that might be worth more than any of the cars I’ve ever owned.  THIS ALWAYS WORKS, and here’s why:  a true bred American is only capable of thinking about whether they like something through imagining owning it – and when one can actually own something, it makes the imagination of owning the other, more expensive works, more vivid.  Of course in the design world, this is more expected, with Droog offering easily produced objects for 20 bucks alongside their more in depth conceptual work, or Murikami opening a Louis Vuitton store inside LACMA alongside his “artwork.”

I think the component which can make this relationship stronger, is when the two feel like they have a sibling relationship – where one feels related but slightly less developed.  And in this case, and even though the ties between ornament and silhouette where there, I wasn’t really able to figure out how the two types of pieces went together.  Visually, the plastic earrings (hung on a white wall) presented vivid colors against a blank, while alternatively, the contrast between the visual delicacy of the camouflage work drew the eye in to the other, and what seemed like the less exciting wall overall… I’m still pondering if the two relate in a really logical way or really if they have to.

I will also briefly mention that although the delicate lines were well executed, the modern silhouettes of classical jewelry ain’t the most revolutionary of ideas (see Islay Taylor, Constanze Schreiber, etc).

Perhaps my favorite piece, which I think did exist between the two semi-disparate projects, was a pair of earrings made of dipped clear plastic. These magical earrings reexamined the idea of the historical silhouette and added a dash of industrial design fin model, slightly asymmetrical and drippy.  Basically each of these elements are a semi-surefire way to make any object visually appealing; this sounds like knock against the Opulent Project, but really it isn’t; it’s good and simple decision making. All together, the effect adds up to an enticing ice-palace treat; perhaps even a humorous nod to the camouflage wall as well, as a see-through earring might just reflect the color of the wearers ear and become a bit surreal.

If you also look forward to seeing what the Opulent Project will come up with in the future, follow them here: http://theopulentproject.blogspot.com

To view photos from the exhibition opening, please visit Gallery Loupe’s Facebook page —> here

Misha Kahn,  RISD BFA Furniture ’11 and Fulbright Fellow, Israel 2011-12, lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

To see a previous review written by Misha, please click ——> here

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