Archive

semantics

( 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

 

—-

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

****************************************************************************************************************************************

THEN YOU WILL ALSO LIKE THIS:

mallory weston

 

mallory weston

mallory weston

 

*MWeston1

**************************************************************************************************************************************

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. 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

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.