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( WHAT CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY IS NOT )

Dear International New York Times,

Today I saw your A Cut Above Jewelry feature (from the Dec. 9 issue) laying on the table and decided to give you a read. I must say, you’re soooo confusing! I just can’t figure out why you’re using terms like, contemporary jewelry, or, conceptual and expressive, alongside luxury goods encrusted with diamonds and ridiculous gemstones that no one can afford from labels such as Graff. Is it that you accidentally misplaced the caption, “Straddling the frontier between craft and art, contemporary jewelry is not always pretty. Conceptual and expressive, its meaning may count more”? Or is it just a misguided opinion that you think this kind of stuff IS conceptual and expressive, you know, stuff that is absurdly expensive or can rarely even see in person/get any hands on? Do you think this stuff is conceptual and expressive just because it isn’t exactly normal jewelry or even young? Don’t you know there are things in this world that are really actually what you describe in that caption? I mean, you’re a newspaper, right? Aren’t you supposed to be more accurate? Wouldn’t you think you’d be more interested in things that touch on real topics, perhaps highlighting jewelry that actually is conceptual and expressive, birthed from meaningful ideas and more accessible to the average person? You know, stuff that isn’t just a crazy fantasy off limits to most your readers? Or actually just a product in the end? After all, it says in Suzy Menkes’ article, Graff has over 40 stores all over the world.

kelliepaper006

And then we have Nazzanin Lankarani’s piece featuring Cindy Chao’s work that you describe like so: “shaped by a sculptor, jewelry as an art piece,” with all this talk about the labor of a sculptor before Koons which was dependent on that artist using their own hands doing all the work from start to finish, and how Chao does that, as if it’s something unique to her, you know, a new revival of sorts. But it’s just not true! Again, that thing about accuracy. Am I to assume, International New York Times, that you think these kinds of “artists” in jewelry are few and far between? It seems to me like y’all decided to feature Chao because it’s neat she’s a one-man-band and all, and her work perfectly lines up with your bourgee aesthetic you oh-so consistently feature. But like I was saying, is this the best you can do considering this high jewelry/nature thing was maaaybbee conceptual during Art Nouveau (over 100 years ago)? But we don’t have to get into all that.  If you’re interested in featuring more compelling work, maybe even more today, while still holding on to your great need for glitz+glam, why not try to feature someone more like Philip SajetKarl Fritsch or Lola Brooks just to name a few? OH RIGHT you like naturey things a lot. OK ok, why not then look at Marta Mattsson or Mari Ishikawa, or check out this exhibition? Without trying to discredit Chao (as I do respect her work practices at the very least), these people I’ve mentioned are real artists and their work is part of an actual conversation, not to mention the fact that their ‘entry level’ jewelry starts at a hell of a lot less than $10,000-$100,00 like that of Chao. I’m just throwin’ out suggestions here. Can I ask another question? Other than aesthetically speaking, how is Graff or Cindy Chao really that different from the companies who paid for ads alongside these articles (Dior, Chanel, Cartier, de Beers…). At at very least this one from Bulgari below seems slightly more relevant in the sense that if I were rich I might actually consider buying that bracelet and ring set vs. a god awful heart-shaped emerald covered flower or something, but I digress… My point is that if you’re going to use this kind of language, you better get better at choosing the right work to talk about. This ain’t it. It is our language after all, particular to a field you obviously know little to nothing about (see artists I mentioned, they are a good place to start, or watch this video).

kelliepaper003

I’ll mention that this jewelry issue from December 9th isn’t completely inaccurate and out of touch, you do include the following bit about jewelry designers exhibiting their work at the Museum of London (which is great), plus a pretty good feature about Romanian designer, Carla Szabo, that talks about what she intends with her objects and local consumer culture.

Getting warmer, but let me ask my last question; why on earth did you feel it necessary to publish this ??? :

horror

Really hideous, NYT. I won’t even start, which is difficult considering the first thing one reads is “designed for woman”…. you know what, I will take that heart-shaped emerald covered flower thing after all.

Respectfully,

Kellie Riggs

 

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Full texts : Graff—> here / Cindy Chao —> here / London on Edge —> here / Carla Szabo —> here /   A-list Phone —> here

the linked video in this text is a lecture by Damian Skinner introduction AJF’s new book, Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective. 

Please visit the original post ——–> HERE 

BL: Loved your enthusiastic scribbling on Bourriaud. I have a problem with your working hypothesis (as usual!?) but like your dauntless crusade!

Where I find you err (!?) is that (1) you assume that the similarities between art and jewelry are what will bring them closer (2) you use as ‘proof’ an example that is particularly unhelpful: Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics texts encapsulates a ‘meaningful departure from the norm’ amongst contemporary art makers: a way of engaging the public that is new, exciting, and representative of larger social concerns. However, while it is new and exciting for art, it is old (and exciting) for jewelry: i.e. jewelry, as you point out, has always relied on a form of public sharing to function. So in my eye, ‘relational’ is not how jewelry becomes more like art, but how art becomes more like jewelry.

KR: I am smiling. And I both agree and disagree with you. Yes, perhaps it is old and exciting for jewelry, but it doesn’t hurt to bring those qualities to the surface and compare it to something so concrete in contemporary art (has it been done?), so that at the very least, dummies who have never thought about jewelry, in its old sense or contemporary sense, can at least take a new kind of pleasure in it, or consider it (even just a tiny bit) to be something bigger and more complex than they ever gave it credit for.

It’s more like, hey everyone, you think this bourriaud relational shit is cool? well guess what: we’ve already been doing that for… ever. so maybe it is worth thinking about, or at the very least enjoying. oh and here’s a whole bunch of jewelry that you’ve never seen before, or even knew existed! you’re welcome. 

BL: I am smiling as well. Comparing is fine, and the way you express it there is more to the point, I think. I would urge you to envisage the possibility that what will make CJ more ‘like art’ is precisely what makes it different from art as we know it.

This dialogue was taken from email correspondance on April 30, 2013. Mr. Lignel is my editor at AJF. 

IF YOU LIKE THIS:

elizabeth renstrom elizabeth renstrom

elizabeth renstrom

elisabeth renstrom

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THEN YOU WILL ALSO LIKE THIS:

mallory weston

 

mallory weston

mallory weston

 

*MWeston1

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appearing first: photography by ELIZABETH RENSTROM <====all photos taken from artist’s website

^(thank you matthew leifheit for introducing her to me through your super awesome MATTE magazine)

second: jewelry by MALLORY WESTON <====all photos taken from artist’s website

please visit the websites to learn more about each artist and their work

What Is It That You Do Exactly? | Art Jewelry Forum <—- click here!

forever young at gallery spektrum, 2012

HELLO READERS!  So happy to announce that after months of waiting, the article I wrote for AJF is finally published on their site. It addresses the lack of categorization within contemporary jewelry work and experiments with trying to do that by breaking apart the different types of exhibitions that we have. Give it a read and tell me what you think.

Here’s a quote I used from Bruce Althsuler to try and demonstrate contemporary jewelry’s relatively slow pace when it comes to dealing with new categories:

Institutional structures created at an earlier time to meet different needs are being called into question by new artistic media and by the use of the term contemporary to designate a particular kind of artwork. Alternative conceptions of the artwork and new technologies have created special problems of preservation and conservation. Broader social and political changes have generated new artistic categories and have broken down established national and ethnic divisions, all of which have affected how collections are built and their contents organized.”

(From Collecting the New) 

Looking at past and current exhibitions is one way we can begin to think about breaking down how we consider and value what is being made. It’s like working in reverse. Whether the exhibition initiative is institutional or independent, and even if the distinction between assembling, selecting, and curating is lost on exhibition organizers (as it most often is), sorting through various shows and analyzing the associations being forged between pieces and their authors can help us see more clearly what kind of work exists within the field. If certain exhibition types help us identify subgenres within contemporary jewelry, then makers and writers may subsequently discover better ways of defining the work at hand and explaining it to others. 

(quoting myself above)

Thank you both Damian Skinner and Benjamin Lignel for editing this piece

Now the mandate is to “design something for when I feel lonely,” he added. “For when I feel empty. For when I’m turned down by my love. For when I’m scared because I’m going to die. For when I lose a kid. Design now is fulfilling important things that for a long time were more expected from art, but that art today is failing to deliver because it’s so immersed in itself.

I know this is a bit past due, but this NYTimes article —->  After the Boom, a Better Kind of Art, about “design art” or “art furniture” seen at Design Miami is really worth the read. Design can get away with anything. It’s more shameless than fashion, a lot of the time. And we should be jealous! Read the article, look at the numbers ( and when I say numbers I mean $$$), and you just TRY and tell me why a super-slickly designed “art” CHAIR made of PLASTIC or something, reels in the big bucks and no one fucking QUESTIONS if it’s worth the price tag or not, when objects made of similar cheap and immediate materials, even if it came from a similar conceptual departure and took a comparable amount of time to make yet is simply just smaller (yes of course a price gap is caused by size differences/material consumption, sure, but I mean my god, plastic is plastic, resin is resin, and that shit ain’t that expensive… and god knows that WE know that when material ain’t an arm and a leg, we make up for it with skill) would NEVER be “worth” that kind of money. WHY? Ok, in rare cases, sure but it isn’t the same, indicated by the fact that “art jewelry” is still pretty much off the highbrow art AND design radar, generally speaking.  To sell jewelry with those kind of price tags, the shit’s still gotta be made of gold, sadly, or have a bunch of fucking diamonds in it. ARE OUR IDEAS TOTALLY WORTHLESS??? But furniture gets an easier ride because of its approachability, its universality  its perception of being needed as it’s functional. It’s easier to justify perhaps, to wrap your head around. And please don’t think i’m speaking negatively; my we’re-fooling-everyone life partner, Misha sent me this article, and he is quite the art furniture or art design (whatever you want to call it <— that just happens to also be a direct quote from the article. Can we say, same problems??? God damn vocabulary always gotta mess everything up) extraordinaire . He just has a slightly easier struggle. And will probably make a hell of a lot more money than the rest of us lowly art jewelry people.

Here are some other quotes from the article, surely to make your brain say, BUT WAIT, HAVEN’T WE, THE CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY ARTISTS, BEEN DOING THIS ALREADY? WHERE IS OUR GREAT MARKET?? :

“…has long worked with designers to produce objects that have the conceptual depth and rarity of fine art”

“Design art has so much growth potential where I’m fortunate to be a spearhead of this new movement… Meanwhile, in the arts It’s so difficult to find something that stands out and proposes something new anymore.”

SO. Do you think we, contemporary jewelry, art jewelry, WHATEVER, is more closely aligned with art, or design? Are we actually a sub-category of design based on the definitions presented by this article? I mean we happen to have already been making art jewelry for awhile, maybe that’s why no one published an article about it in the NYTimes or anywhere in the public sphere, for that matter, because it started a long time ago. I happen to think we’ve already been filling the great divide between art and design, just a little more quietly I suppose. So i’ll ask again, where’s our great market? Hell, the economy stinks right? At least contemporary jewelry is cheaper to collect. And you get to fucking wear it. EYES OPEN, WORLD.

I will mention that Caroline van Hoek (described as a design gallery mind you) did attend at Design Miami with a list of amazing artists that went something like this: Giampaolo BabettoGijs BakkerRalph Bakker, Alexander BlankHelen BrittonBeatrice BroviaKlaus BurgelNicolas ChengWillemijn De GreefDavid HuyckeBeate KlockmannDaniel KrugerFritz MaierhoferBarbara PaganinSeth PapacRenzo PasqualeRuudt PetersRobert Smit, StudyOPortableLisa Walker and Annamaria Zanella. Thanks Caroline! 

I wonder how she did this year.

Now back to that first quote at the top of the post. Maybe that guy should start thinking about making jewelry. We already do all that too.

Misha_Kahn_Pig_Bench

But then again, so does Misha.                                       Click on the image above for a link to his website.

design ≥ art ≥ jewelry ????

I JUST DON’T EVEN KNOW TODAY

THIS IS A MUST READ!!!!!!!!

THE FOLLOWING WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN METALSMITH MAGAZINE IN 2006 AS A RESPONSE TO A QUESTIONNAIRE SENT BY THE ACG AND WRITTEN BY ARTIST, BENJAMIN LIGNEL. 

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What does Contemporary Jewellery mean? 


Not very much, to anyone outside the profession; but the question is a helpful reminder that:

1/ in most countries, the debate will never find an audience outside the actual community that launched it;


2/ this is a simplistic label, falling short of the profession’s complex heritage and range of interests.

But it’s a tricky one, and I tried to list some of the ways one could answer it:




Contemporary Jewellery is a type of practice – understood as the contemporary offspring of a craft-based design activity that finds its origin in medieval workshops. Such a definition stresses contemporary jewellery’s historical past, and finds antecedents in the British and American Arts & Crafts movements, the renewed late XIXth century interest in manual skills (as a last stand against industrialisation), and the emergence of radical jewellery movements in the 60s: it underlines the notions of individuality, craftsmanship, and its troubled relationship to the production mainstream;

or a type of object: poised between high-street jewellery and art (the former’s glorified other, the latter’s poor relative), we know what it’s not (‘just’ manufactured artefacts for wearing), and what it wants to be (the expression of individual talent that reflects on, and sometimes influences, contemporary culture), much less what it is. 
A few distinctive characteristics, however, seem to be beyond debate: the human body as a general working area; an open attitude to methods and material that echoes art’s own agenda, complicated by the notion of wearability; the distinctiveness we associate with individual expression; and an emancipation from consumer goods’ vocation to ‘just’ satisfy consumer desires.



It could also be defined as a market (I follow here the argument that cultural artefacts are defined less by methods of production than by distribution, accessibility and ultimately, potential impact on a larger consumer base). In most countries, a limited number of galleries take care of both distribution and promotion – while the designer-maker is expected (if (s)he wants to make a living) to be represented by at least five galleries, and complement consignment sales by direct, off-the-anvil transactions. From my point of view, the Contemporary Jewellery market works in ways similar to the art market, but on a scale so small, that its lack of visibility questions its existence.

So then: most jewellers would agree that Contemporary Jewellery is a fast-evolving profession at a crossroad between craft, design, and art, currently ridged by identity concerns. However, I think that the problem, rather than one of identity, is one of image. Although the lack of an established definition has contributed to an extremely rich range of output -personal answers to a collective question- it seems that diversity stands in the way of a more cohesive front, one that would focus on explaining to people that there is a life after Cartier, Pomellato and Tiffany’s. And the unsuspecting public still lumps the practice together with its craft-based past, judges its production on a par with high-end (or any other) jewellery, and considers artistic ambition rather like a presumptuous fancy (unless one equates ‘artistic’ with ‘skilled’, ‘meaningful’ or ‘committed to self-expression’).



This happens at least for two reasons:

Firstly, there are not enough of us to rally a larger population to Contemporary Jewellery’s standards: exposure is limited by the output (there are comparatively few jewellery design programs, fewer graduates that stick to the trade, and not many pieces produced per year per jeweller). This scarcity of active jewellery makers is further complicated by our cultural antagonism with serial reproduction -and therefore, bigger distribution (1). A cynical bystander would add: this is a micro-profession, which means little appeal to the press, anaemic cultural budgets, no specific courses in the history of Contemporary Jewellery (to my knowledge), and therefore, no history. As a result, Contemporary Jewellery is always deemed a subsidiary activity, on the margin of mainstream jewellery creation. 
Secondly, designer-makers are by nature a/o trade, uncommunicative, or certainly not prone to enthusiastic pamphlet scribbling. Who’s ever heard of Contemporary Jewellery, outside its confidential network of galleries and specialised clientèle?

The situation, and this is my point, demands more than just communication: instead of shunning assertive promotion/information strategies (for fear of contamination?), we must resist inertia from within and without that confine Contemporary Jewellery to its ill-defined (but restricting) marginal position, and explore new means of proliferation.

So we should communicate more. And explain our intentions. But in the end, let us not be too intent on defining our practice as one thing only: if anything, I would even drop the ‘Contemporary’ or ‘Studio’ used to qualify this jewellery: whatever specific meaning it may have had is now superseded by a vague sense of institutionalised ‘otherness’.



Let’s be proud, and call it jewelry.

THIS TEXT IS LINKED ON THE BLOG ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE PAGE UNDER PRACTICAL INFO…

The following is a delightful review of Gallery Loupe’s recent show, The Birthday Boys by ≥’s first guest writer (!), Misha Kahn. Please see the previous post for photos. 

Kellie was visiting me in NYC, over at my house trying to convince me to get on approximately 15 trains to go look at tiny things in Montclair, New Jersey.  It was one of those Saturday afternoons that puts you into a sleepy daze, the kind that doesn’t make you want to trek out into the boonies for really anything one ain’t able to afford.  But after a bit of convincing I came along –  I’m not entirely unfamiliar with contemporary jewelry, but my understanding of it is largely through an easy comparison to my own playing field – furniture.  It’s a similar set of problems, mostly peoples’ curiously rigid logic that design or craft or art should all get processed in different parts of the brain.  Sure, aesthetics can translate but at the end of the day that little pin-back or those four legs force it into some other part of cerebral processing.  And, rather hypocritically, I process most of these types of “craft” media in terms of whether or not I want to own it, wear it, or put it in my house.  Unlike most people though my fantasy shopping isn’t limited by comfort or practicality or really any pragmatic concerns that the mainstream would use to evaluate “design” objects.  

Let me tell you, I wanted everything at this show.  Now, let me tell you why:

The Birthday Boys’ work was divided diagonally down the gallery, between a line of optically perplexing mirrored structures with delicate metal feelers on one side and little nuggets of perfection on the other, part memphis part maquette part tiny silly color texture pattern blocked objet d’brooch.

Peter Skubic’s mirrored mini chosms where like tiny little fun houses for your lapel.   The way they reflected your face, fragmenting it and introducing your neighbors faces and body parts, re- configuring them felt reminiscent of a Hockney joiner or cubist painting.  This way of seeing makes so much sense, because we never really see anything without processing it, introducing our own knowledge and memories of what surrounds us.  These brooches function as glasses for seeing how we see –  allowing us to see the room unpeiced, before our brain assembles these parts.  The delicate feelers reaching out had the effect of an antanea, making sure the wearer didn’t bump into anything too close, but it’s easily altered forms become a memory of the space that the object has encountered, recording each of its run ins with its new, altered shapes.  The pieces become a collection of memories, those recorded, and those of the moment, deconstructed and put on view.  This to me seemed a more than valid justification for making a slew of objects that for all intensive purposes where quite similar.  Because they were about this alteration of space, and this shattered view they worked more strongly in this extensive line up.

Although within contemporary jewelry there is no surprise when an object falls outside the mainstream convention of sparkly/shiny/precious, and since the other Birthday Boy was working with such high, reflective sheen, Thomas Gentilles felt extra fresh.  Because of this, his work seemed even more reminiscent of the Memphis response to the largely chromed, sleek furniture of the early 80’s.  His use of color, mixing pattern and play between angular construction and more imaginative shape and proportion added to this connection.  However, on this scale the play between shape and pattern became far more engaging.  As much as I hate to ever call things architectural, being as unimaginative as saying “it’s nice”- these brooches had some qualities of miniatures that forced this connection.  Trying to imagine them blown up I was displeased, but at their current size, with the detailed prints of shattered eggshell they felt like pocket size maps to imaginary worlds.  It was as though he discovered some secret area where a miniature only works at that size – a rarity in the object world where scale is frequently arbitrary or as large as the market will allow.  In this brooches he created the effect of a window – functioning in such an abstract way – that one might be looking at Gentille’s world from a 10,000 foot altitude or standing so close its about to go out of focus.

Gentille’s play of scale and distance in conjunction with Skubics alteration of vision and memory made a show that left you in a blissful imaginative daze.  Wandering back into the streets of suburban New Jersey feeling adjacent to standard space and time — all conjured by something to wear that on a Lapel – that is really something.

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

In mid May a friend and I took a day trip to Ferrara to eat some good pumpkin ravioli. When wandering around, we stumbled on a surprisingly good exhibition entitled, VIOLENCE, L’arte interpreta la violenza (art interprets violence). The following images are select works from the show. I kindly encourage you to ask these questions while looking:

IS THIS ART OR IS THIS JEWELRY?

OR IS IT NOT THE SAME GOD DAMN THING?

Curated by Lola Bonora and Silvia Cirelli, the group show was part of the XV Biennale Donna, or Woman Biennial , and located in Ferrara’s Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (or PAC Museo). If not already clear, the works shown do not belong to the realm of contemporary jewelry, YET THEY COULD. On the surface, both pieces are obviously aesthetically linked to similar work being produced by artist-jewelers, and when more thoroughly investigated, their conceptual underpinnings act as confirmation to the relationship between the two realms.

Had this work been a part of a contemporary jewelry exhibition and the artists from a background of jewelry as well, how would the framework of the show been different? The first image, Peso (or Weight), 2006, is by Regina José Galindo, a performance artist I have previously mentioned on this blog because of her similarities to practices found in art jewelry, namely her devotion to the body. Peso is described as a framed lambda print on forex, made singular by the physical absence of the chained object that adorns the wearer in the photo. If Galindo were a contemporary jeweler, I would be willing to bet the object itself would also have been on display. Whether or not Galindo would have hypothetically made the chain by hand perhaps does not matter in this case due to the strong visual connotations the piece carries with it. The audience would also probably know whether or not she had done so, as the written framework usually highlights this aspect and more clearly communicates the materials used when it comes to conceptual work in jewelry. If it wasn’t hand made, the chain would have most certainly been indicated as a found object. In the present context however, the audience knows nothing of make or material and that’s because it really doesn’t matter. As such, the idea, the message and the visual impact is all the more highlighted and not weighed down by material discourse like it so often is in contemporary jewelry.

Below is a similar work of artist Gisbert Stach entitled, Fitting, 2008, a 29 minute video showing a woman being repeatedly adorned with chains until she is holding 30+ pounds of weight on her upper body. This piece was not a part of VIOLENCE. 

Fitting was a piece included in the exhibition What’s in a Frame?, a collateral show during Schmuck 2012 in Munich. Although part of a contemporary jewelry fair, here we can also ask ourselves, IS THIS JEWELRY OR IS THIS ART? When considering work like this, especially in relation to a piece like Galindo’s, the question becomes almost unnecessary and silly. I’ll mention that chains  adorning the woman in Stach’s film were also not on display. Like Peso, they simply did not need to be; Fitting was much more about the collective power and physical burden. Gisbert can be described as a trans-disciplinary artist heavily tied to contemporary jewelry yet is not limited to any particular medium. He also regularly makes work with Rose Stach and they exhibit as a duo.

Naiza H. Khan’s installation for VIOLENCE included four galvanized steel armor sculptures entitled, Armour Suit for Rani of Jhansi (2008), Armour Lingerie IV (2007), Armour Lingerie V (2007), and The Robe (2008), as well four photographs from the series, New Clothes for the Emperor. When considering if Khan’s works had been part of a contemporary jewelry show, the audience would probably assume that the artist had personally made the armours, but here we do not know, and again, it is not so important. I myself would be interested to know one way or the other; kudos to Khan if the metalwork was done herself. Is the question of who made the work a shared curiosity or is it my background as a jeweler that has sparked this interest? As a maker, I also walked around the hanging armours and thought about how well or not-so-well they were made. This is another typical discourse in contemporary jewelry when distinguishing weather the work is good or bad, but in this scenario, it hardly matters.

Below is a poor photograph of the write up for Khan’s work.

The show’s specific theme of violence meant that most of the included work had a strong and central tie to the physical body, an obvious fundamental seen in the most interesting works within  conceptual jewelry practice. Although much less visually linked on an obvious scale, I found Galindo’s prints, No perdemos nada con nacer (2000) to be similarly relevant. Like Khan, the use of photo documentation as an effective tool for reading the work remains to be underutilized in works in jewelry artworks. Here we can take note and follow the example of how Galindo gives her work a very specific environment that without which would fail to mean much of anything.

Yoko Ono’s adaptation of her 1965 performance,  Cut Piece, can also be abstractly tied to the world of jewelry. The performance, which included a seated Yoko Ono and an invitation for members of the audience to come on stage one by one to cut off pieces of her clothing, emphasize the necessity of interaction as the functioning role to the success of an artwork. “Yoko Ono’s body becomes in itself the performance with an exchange of roles where the spectator is turned into the protagonist,” states the writeup; the point of which mimics the inherent foundation of jewelry objects once adorned and living in the world. The statement also mentions subordination, the passivity of women and the lightening of spirits, concepts that are historically buried beneath jewelry’s societal past, truths that can almost always be dug up from any jewelry object if looking to find it.

Loredana Longo’s site specific installation for VIOLENCEFloor#5 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, utilizes recognizable, found materials (once worn clothing) and visitor participation to communicate the magnitude of a past event. Longo shares the sentiment that her work is not complete until truly engaged, the same way that some jewelry artists only see their work as complete when worn on the body. Tactile and physical demands are present and therefore imperative, tampering with the approach to the artwork that ultimately exploits a specific emotional ingredient and connection. Here is one strong example of where visual art and contemporary jewelry share a common ground.

Lydia Schouten’s installation, A Virus of Sadness, is also worth mentioning here. I think it poses questions to the likes of whether contemporary jewelry works could ever rise to a similar occasion and demand a larger and more thougful framework for exhibition. Do objects, small ones at that, harness the same capabilities to tell a story like this? Works in jewelry are capable of being equally confrontational. Are we interested in thinking bigger?

Perhaps the biggest question to ask is whether or not a contemporary jewelry artist like Stach or anyone else working similarly (Shari Pierce could have kicked some ass in this show particularly, Christoph Zellweger and Hilde De Decker are worth noting for thinking more abstractly exhibition wise… just to name a few) would ever be included in an contemporary art exhibition. After all, our world exists on a parallel and basically invisible track to the fine art world. We need some cross pollination. But first, and like I said earlier, we need to think bigger. Taking cues from exhibitions like VIOLENCE will benefit just about everyone, jewelry related or not.

Shari Pierce, detail of 300 Sex Offenders from Within a 5 mile Radius, installation

Shari Pierce, Detail of 300 Sex Offenders Body Piece

Blue and White Jean Dress with Small Blue Flowers, Age 42: USA, Part of She LL Project

http://www.sharipierce.com/shell_project_archive.html

How do we explain contemporary jewelry to those that have never heard to it? For a Fulbright presentation back in February, I collected the following images in effort to do just that. I had the group try to distinguish what they were looking at by pairing up “artists” with “jewelers” who work in similar aesthetic modes. It’s a game of cross-reference, an effort to get new eyeballs on the work by putting  jewelry artists in the same conversation as visual artists. I’ll mention that the use of quotations below indicate the common connotations of the words within them and should emphasize the absurdity of naming or labeling in general.

WHICH PIECES IS “JEWELRY” AND WHICH PIECE IS “ART” ? 

(CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR LINK TO WEBSITE)

IS THIS THE WORK OF AN “ARTIST” OR “JEWELER” ???? 

(CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR LINK TO WEBSITE)

IS THIS OBJECT “JEWELY” OR  AN “ARTWORK” ? 

WHICH IS WHICH? 

(CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR LINK TO WEBSITE)

“JEWELRY” OBJECTS OR “ART” OBJECTS?? 

(CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR LINK TO WEBSITE)

DO THESE THREE PIECES COME FROM THE SAME PERSON? 

(CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR LINK TO WEBSITE)

WHAT ARE EACH OF THESE OBJECTS??  

(CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR LINK TO WEBSITE)

FOR MORE INFO ABOUT DEFINING CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY, PLEASE CICK ON THE COSMOLOGY LINK AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE ! FEEL FREE TO SHARE ALSO!

The following is an excerpt from an interview given by Marina Elenskaya of Current Obsession and artist Ulrich Reithofer

C.O: What would be the definition for you: I’m a contemporary artist, I’m a jeweller, I’m a craftsman.

U.R.: I am contemporary because I’m now. And I’m a jeweller because thats what I’m aiming for, is to be carried away, taken with someone. That the work is possibly given as a present with meaning of something related to jewellery: birthday, wedding, engagement… I just made a ring for a new born baby and his mother and this is how I’m a jeweller.

C.O: Why did you choose jewellery as a medium? Why not expressing yourself through sculpture?

U.R.: Well, I anyway do sculpture, because a ring is a sculpture, brooch is a sculpture, parts of a necklace are always sculptural. But sculpture is based on the ground, there is a relation to the human body in size, but it is based somewhere and stays there. The jewellery is somehow worn and at a certain moment comes to the body and creates this personal relation with the body, it communicates only through the body. And the sculpture would not do that.

C.O.: So the act of wear is important for you, its not to be sitting in the box or hang on the wall?

U.R.: It is OK for me, but the object that I make, this sculpture has to imply the use. Even if its not wearable, even if it hurts when worn, then there is a statement about the non-wearability. But the human relation that lies in dimension to the body is important.

C.O.: About the work itself, how it looks now and what it embodies, how did you come to this?

U.R.: Its about putting things in a different prospective. Say, the chair, we know it as a furniture object in the room. What happens to the object in the room when its worn on the body?
Its the irritation that communicates. I think jewellery has to irritate to work. It has to be something that does not physically belong to you. It is not a pimple on your thumb, or a scratch on your cheek. It is something strange, but then does it communicate? Sometimes it just doesn’t. But sometimes someone will ask: “Why does she wear a fucking chair?!” That would mean I achieved my goal – I started a communication.

the rest of the interview can be seen —> here

The evening of April 20th marked the opening of Rosalba Balsamo‘s exhibition, Less is More, at Contemporary Jewelry Gallery, Antonella Villanova. It also happened to be the opening of 25th, presented by Galleria Alessandro Bagnai,  in celebration of twenty five years of operation as a contemprary art gallery. Advertised as individual openings and as separate galleries by name, both events took place at the very same space at the very same time.

This might not seem so strange once knowing more about Villanova and Bagnai’s two preexisting sister galleries (which are both located about ten minutes away). They are situated on parallel streets; two separate store fronts, two different names although the space is physically yet subtly connected inside.

Villanova and Bagnai’s new joint gallery at Piazza Goldoni combine represented artists of both galleries under one, more obvious and much larger roof; the new space boasts a floor plan twice the space of both charmingly sized individual galleries combined, and same goes for ceiling height. Although a definite upgrade, the two smaller galleries continue to keep their doors open.

The new gallery is extremely beautiful. I heard rumor of the merge a few months ago but felt it might end up being a too-good-to-be true kind of deal. How often is it that contemporary jewelry gets to share a stage equally with work considered to be contemporary art? Not so often. The galleries in which one can see contemporary jewelry artworks are always only for such work, and the few with a broader range of fields teeter on the edge of ‘design’, ‘functional objects’… never fine art. Although it is true that big museums hold contemporary jewelry collections, it is almost always regarded as a highly separate field, never allowed to mingle with other more elevated artworks. And ever more so (take the Met for example) the conceptual/research based art jewelry is lumped into the same categorization as the ancient and/or historical jewels of civilizations and royalties  past.  Recognizing this fact is perhaps why the opening of the hybrid Villanova/Bagnai is fairly groundbreaking, it truly is. Especially for Italy.

So how did they do? As usual, there are a few issues worth noting. Both shows are separately advertised. The press for Balsamo’s show makes no mention of Bagnai’s opening, and vise versa. Is it a clever ploy to get the real art critics and fine art audience to finally see and think about the jewelry in the same terms? Do Villanova and Bagnai acknowledge the work as being equally captivating, able to compete on the same level? One can only hope. But is the slyness necessary? Perhaps it is.

While at Schmuck, I had the great pleasure of meeting artist, Andrea Wagner. We spoke in length about the so-called problems specific to the contemporary jewelry field and about ways of reframing the work to get it higher consideration in the art world. She spoke of introduction and order, what to say first to keep the attention of those that have never considered whether jewelry can be art and the reverse. To paraphrase, she told me that once the J-word is spoken, the blinds just sort of go down and the interest tends to disappear. No longer is she talking about art, as the problem with jewelry is apparent in its own  name, especially to those that just don’t know this kind of work exists. By silently aligning herself to Bagnai, perhaps Villanova is trying to avoid the blinds going down before the work is given a fair chance to compete.

Is this game of association more desperate than it is clever? I don’t think so. And perhaps I’m over thinking it. Villanova and Bagnai are known names and certainly they wanted the weight and the following to be carried through to the new space. And in my opinion, the real test lies in the way the work, both the jewelry work and the artworks in Bagnai’s show were presented in relation to each other.

Upon walking in, the first thing one is confronted with is Balsamo’s new work. Score for team jewelry. But not so fast, as the pieces were bound to plexi display cases attached to the wall. I will say that the cases were quite nice compared to the infinite amount of god-awful cases out there, but they were still cases. On the upside, the front of each plexi box was open, making the work actually accessible. This was a pleasant surprise as it enabled one to imagine actually touching, holding, feeling the piece, highlighting a potential interaction, and one could have that interaction provided they were brave enough to make it happen. Not bad. I will mention that this series of Balsamo fell a little flat for me (also the work was literally so, so flat) and lack-luster. The work was crowded and redundant, and the generality of the pieces in combination with their housing made it feel more like a misplaced gallery shop than work that belonged in a gallery. This was probably the most upsetting aspect because the work was actually IN an art gallery. But it wouldn’t be fair to call it fine and good just because of that reason alone. I do think Balsamo makes good work, this just didn’t happen to be it. Perhaps if some information was provided I could have been convinced of a little more. Here lies another issue but we shall save that for another time.

The other work throughout the gallery gets a bit more interesting, yet a lot of it has to do with the excitement of the new space. The artists of 25th are as follows and were selected based on how their work has characterized the activity of the gallery over the last two-plus decades: Roberto Barni, Massimo Barzagli, Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi, Gianni Dessì, Rolando Deval, Rainer Fetting, Jannis Kounellis, Paolo Leonardo, Nunzio, Mimmo Paladino, Pizzi Cannella, David Salle, Maurizio Savini, Mario Schifano, Marco Tirelli, Betty Woodman, and George Woodman.

Below is a better attempt to merge some jewelry more fluidly with the rest of the works in the show, they are not Balsamo’s (I apologize but I don’t know who the artist is- will remedy the situation in time).

Works of Lucia Massei were also present in the gallery, but took space in a closed off back section near another, smaller entrance. Massei had a solo show at the former Villanova space earlier in the year. In both instances pieces were displayed in the same plexi-cases as Balsamo’s work, indicating they had less than nothing to do with the work inside. Why does this continue to be the norm? Here are some images below:

The question remains: is researched based jewelry art, just because it is in an art gallery?  I struggle with this regularly, or struggle with figuring out if it matters. I’ve been whining and whining about leveling the playing field, and finally here, Villanova/Bagnai are attempting to build some kind of bridge, but something is missing. It’s like having a delicious meal but leaving the restaurant hungry. I believe it’s a combination of things, mostly the lack of cohesion between the works in 25th and Balsamo’s Less is More. This is quite clear, and the problem could have been solved with a blend of the two shows instead of them merely sharing the same roof (even though it’s great that they share the same roof! Example: I am going to ‘tag’ some of the referenced artists. That means both Jannis Kounellis and Lucia Massei will appear next to one another on the list, because they were, more or less, in the same show… but were they?). Here we have the same problem that exists within museum collections, separate but seemingly  quasi-equal. In this case the problem would have been solved with a better choice of artist from Villanova to match up aesthetically to Bagnai’s retrospective artists, who were much more clearly chosen selectively. It isn’t often that contemporary jewelry shows are critiqued for curatorial choices; the field is so small that it seems to be thought of as unnecessary, a sad reality in an anything goes world.

Why doesn’t the same critical eye get passed through works in jewelry? Why is there a reluctance to truly combine mediums under the same roof, the same name? Why are display conventions in jewelry not being challenged with more apt and expressive modes that match the potential integrity of the work? We have a mighty long way to go, indeed. But despite the shortcomings of their efforts, Villanova and Bagnai are on the right track to building that much needed bridge.

The new location of Villanova and Bagnai is Palazzo Ricasoli in Piazza Goldon, 2, Florence, Italy. Galleria Antonella Villanova is located on Via della Spada, 36R, which is currently showcasing the other half of Rosalba Balsamo’s ‘Less is More’ series. Galleria Alessandro Bagnai is located on Via del Sole, 15r and is currently exhibiting work by Günther Uecker.

Finally!

Well, not exactly. The following is… let’s say, an unofficial “edit” of a selection of excerpts from Nicolas Bourriaud’s writings on Relational Aesthetics. Although from 1998 (the english version of the book was published in 2002), the text is actually quite relevant to work in contemporary jewelry.  It’s almost as if one could replace most references to “visual art” or “contemporary art”-or really just “art”- with the word jewelry… and that’s exactly what I did.

I will note that when I use the word jewelry (I apologize if this is redundant), I am speaking to “our kind” of jewelry, contemporary art jewelry, as stated by Marjan Unger in her text and talk presented at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, during Schmuck. Click —> here for that full text. It’s quite interesting in comparison to Bourriaud; I would argue that the two are talking about the same thing, yet the problem remains that no one in the jewelry world has been willing to make these kind of comparisons (I would love to know if I am falsely stating). I would say that Unger talks about jewelry as relational aesthetics, yet can’t seem to just say so. Her text also ends on a somewhat disappointing note, as she suddenly steers far clear of vocabulary associated with the art world and simply resting on design and the history of jewelry. Am I alone in the search for a bridge off the island that is “our kind” of jewelry, to a bigger and wilder place like contemporary visual art? Most artists really could be on their way yet fall short in the framing/formalization of their work. START GIVING YOURSELVES SOME MORE CREDIT, YOU’RE ACTUALLY MAKING WORK THAT CAN BE DESCRIBED LIKE THIS:

LOOK AT THE COMMENTS

nicolas bourriaud on contemporary jewelry

http://www.gerritrietveldacademie.nl/files/scriptie2011/sieraden/Sieraad_Elenskava.pdf <———- !!!!!

The link above happens to be the biggest golden nugget of a find to date. Ok I didn’t find it, it was sent to me by a new colleague and hopefully a future partner in crime. The link will take you to  the thesis of Marina Elenskaya (founder of Current Obsession), who graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam last year. She and I have been in contact for a few weeks now, scheming away in hopes for bigger and better dialog and action within our field. If you haven’t yet checked out C-O, please do! There you will find interviews with Manfred Bischoff, work of rising super-start Adam Grinovich and other talented artists, as well as the full interview with Volker Atrops that I previously posted a bit of.

Marina too is a maker, yet her research on the state of the contemporary jewelry world is unlike most of what is out there… there really ain’t a whole lot. She talks about this in the thesis, and like me, she is very much invested in a clearer definition of the field while also questioning that very notion; part of jewelry’s incapability to be defined ultimately is one of it’s most unique qualifiers.

To get you excited, I have pulled out some tidbits! Here is the beginning of her first chapter, IDENTITY:

“Hello, what do you do?”

Status-anxiety is an ongoing issue within the field of applied arts. These tendencies of identity crisis are undoubtedly influencing the discourses in the field of Contemporary Jewellery as well. There is a certain strive for acknowledgment by the art world. But the precise hierarchy of the art world predicts us an unfortunate role of the inferior discipline. The position of an in-betweener is also not comfortable for many. People are trying to define themselves as artists, but it almost feels immodest to say it out loud. Definition has a lot to do with function and destination of the work. It has also to do with function and destination of the work. It has also to do with production, presentation, distribution and, most importantly– pricing. Jewellery wants to be priced as art, and not as craft. It means that the final product is judged upon its conceptual value and innovative thinking, rather than its material value and its quality. 

above is a mind map of Marina’s conceptions in the thesis (YOU KNOW HOW I LOVE A GOOD DIAGRAM).

The following is an excerpt from an interview given by Marina Elenskaya of Current Obsession and artist Volker Atrops.

Here is the manifesto of CO:

Jewellery is what you make of it 

We are searching for new ways of presenting jewellery

We are collaborating freely

We are not attached to any place

We are creating a new world web for contemporary jewellery 
free of restrictions

We are attracting new audiences by taking over existing venues 
and creating crossed-media exhibitions 

We promote, show and teach jewellery

Join and contribute

the interview:

SLICING THE PIE OF THE EVERYDAY

Current Obsession: Can you tell something about what this represents?

Volker Atrops: Yes, ok. I made this photo for this workshop, but before it was hanging like this in my workshop. But without the darts, just the board with the chain. I added darts to the sides later, just to make it clear that there is a center and the board symbolizes jewellery field, and the chain that hangs in the middle makes it clear that its about jewellery.

C.O.: Did you make the chain?
V.A.: No, I found it on a flea market, its clearly just a chain and nothing else, its a decoration piece for the body, jewellery piece, simple, no precious stones, no gold … Then there are three darts, I purposely put them on the periphery area of the board. And what I wanted to say with this, is that there is a whole field of jewellery and a center, which is maybe a simple wedding ring or a pearl necklace that has history, suitable to the body and has a lot of meaning and its so strong that no matter where you go, to everyone it is clear that this is a jewellery piece. And the fact that it fits very well to the body and very well developed over thousands of years makes it the center somehow. And then to see where the field ends, maybe some people explore boundaries because they are kind of bored, or maybe because what you can develop is already developed they are looking for new areas, for new fields, they want to put some things from outside ( that case from art) in. Then you have the periphery I name each darts after Rudt Peters, or Otto Kunzli or Peter Skubitc or other people that in the nineties or the eighies were busy with working in the periphery, trying to look for the boundary, or to overstep the edge of the boundary, they tried to do it. In general they didn’t get the point…

C.O.: Yes, because when you go on exploring, its nice to get out there, but you get further away from the center…
V.A.: You are getting out or want to open a kind of door somewhere, let something new in, its quite important, but most things are already defined.

C.O.: In contemporary jewellery? 
V.A.: not in contemporary jewellery, but in jewellery. It is a basic thing, like food for plants, for animals, jewellery is important for human beings, it existed for very long, and its still alive and it does not matter how the culture is changing…

C.O.: So the concept of “contemporary” does not concern you, it s just jewellery then?
V.A.: Well, there are differences… contemporary jewellery is also nice, because it means its “nowadays”, and then there is this artistic jewellery, or jewellery art, it is also something different, so you can find a lot of names, but is the end its about jewellery and what you are doing with it. This is precisely the point, the center is very important and if you are studying, don’t loose the center. Because, in the process you can turn to the periphery and explore, but you always have to come to the central point. Especially in art schools they’ve developed in a way, that it is expected to find a place in the periphery of the field. Because there is sort of a scene for those margins, and you make a good work, marking the territory in a way, and the work stays there somehow. But it is a very difficult position, because in former times jewellery field wanted to be perceived as art, but it didn’t really work out, because it was not accepted by the art scene. The critics didn’t really care, and fine art gallerists didn’t really care… I mean sometimes it works out, but more as an exception, its not enough. So it stays in this strange position, like between the two spheres. And thats why its a pity that all the talents at art schools don’t work around or try to manipulate the center. So they leave it to the main stream. And its a pity because the center connects us to the daily culture. To our culture. Like ethnic jewellery of Africa: to our eyes its exotic because of its strange forms or colors, material combinations, but it fits in their culture, it reflects their daily life. The kind of nature they live in, their conditions, rituals, the whole life span… But works made on these margins of the field, its more like a dead-born child. Some things worked out, but it didn’t really become a part of our culture, remaining a the small insider club of nerds.

To read the full interview, click here

for more info about volker atrops, visit these pages:

http://www.au-abc.de/

http://www.louisesmit.nl/frameset.php?language=en