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Seeing Estonia through Cult Jewellery: Reflections of the exhibition, Estonishing ! 13° from Estonia

To highlight the opening of Estonishing ! 13° in Tallinn that happened on the 16th of November 2016, I’m posting this text I wrote originally for SIRP magazine that was translated into Estonian. Here it is in english for the first time. The original debut of this exhibition took place at SCHMUCK 2016 in the Handwerksmesse in Munich, Germany, 24.02 – 01.03.2016

text by Kellie Riggs

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The Contemporary Jewellery community is not big, but it is unique. It remains to hover somewhere above other, similar creative fields like fashion, design, art and craft. Never quite assimilating, it is instead a combination of the four, taking the best aspects from each of these groups back to its own special atmosphere and turning it into something amazing. The field, its artists and community all can feel like a well-kept secret hidden in plain sight. But in fact, it spans every continent on the globe, found tucked in pockets and hubs rich with cultural relevance and a collective will to express and adorn.

It is one week a year in Munich, Germany that contemporary jewellery’s modesty steps aside and the field (both cultural and academic) is able to come together as one global community acting as a fortified front. It shows the best of itself in broad daylight. Its members flock from every corner of the world, becoming pilgrims. And the jewellery on display itself become relics, housed in specially created spaces that only Munich Jewellery Week can inspire and cultivate. It is all rather cult, as its followers – students, artists, enthusiasts, and collectors alike – have a specific kind of admiration and devotion that can be felt buzzing on the streets of Munich from exhibition to exhibition.

Over the course of the last ten years, Munich Jewellery Week (as it has only recently been known to be called, coinciding with the SCHMUCK event) has grown exponentially. Starting with around ten collateral exhibitions throughout the city in 2006, MJW 2016 boasted over seventy. Whether they are academic classes or artist-run collectives, many diverse international jewellery groups come to show what they do via independent or gallery represented exhibitions. And when done right, they are able to demonstrate particular cultural tendencies in jewellery at large, and illustrate more sensitive cultural perspectives through the particular expressiveness that jewellery provides. Good Contemporary Jewellery is always a lens through which to look into the subtleties of other cultures, national or local, big or small. It is an irreplaceable means to understand how different cultures or subcultures feel about certain elusive subjects – many of which are quite intimate – as jewellery is a relatively intimate affair to begin with.

So what does it mean for jewellery to be from a certain place? From Estonia? What kind of illustration does the world have of this country through the jewellery that comes out of it? I myself can only speak to an outsider’s perspective and reflect on the impression that’s been made in places like Munich where Estonian artists have been able to show face together against the backdrop of a contrasting cultural framework. In one way or another they act as a collective ambassador, providing one of the few and probably most profound windows through which one can catch a glimpse of this fascinating (and largely mysterious) land. In all actuality, Estonia and Estonian Contemporary Jewellery remain the subject of intrigue in the international Contemporary Jewellery community; there seems to be a special kind of force field that surrounds it, one that recalls magic and evokes a curious kind of arousal.

This year in Munich, Estonian jewellery artists could be found in many places. The work of Nils Hint, more blacksmith than jeweler, was included in one of the highest quality international exhibitions in the city, (IM)PRINT. Three of the more internationally prolific artists were selected for the prestigious juried SCHMUCK exhibition that takes place every year in the Handwerksmesse Exhibition Hall: Kadri Mälk, Tanel Veenre, and Linda Al-Assi. And Darja Popolitova, who just recently graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts, was selected for the congruent TALENTE exhibition. But somewhere within the maze of uninspired booths of international jewellery galleries that surrounded these shows, the real gem could be found: the exhibition, “ESTONISHING !”, presented by Thomas Cohn Gallery, co-curated by the gallerist himself, and artist, Tanel Veenre. The magnetism of the work of this group of Estonian artists was so strong that it could be felt in São Paulo, Brazil (where Mr. Cohn is located), and convincing enough to come together for exhibition in Munich. As far as I know, it was also Mr. Cohn’s first year presenting the gallery at the Handwerksmesse, which is a big deal.

That right there is magic. Some kind of supernatural connection brought these seemingly disparate people together. And speaking of connection, what is it that connects these thirteen Estonian artists to one another? I find this question to be often reoccurring, as there is some kind of pull, something very grounded, something only sensed but invisible, that ties Estonian work together in a way that is so unique, it is simply not found in other Contemporary Jewellry circles in other countries. They appear spiritually united, and at this point in the history of Contemporary Jewellery, this is now universally recognized. But how?

This very question of connection was precisely what Veenre sought to examine when organizing the exhibition. He asked: Is it patience, an endeavour for holiness, assurance, or hope that connects us? Is is melancholy? These questions are perhaps not meant to be solved, rendering a smart and lyrical way to ask the viewer to really look into the jewellery on display and investigate their vulnerability and universality.

This is an intriguing question, and quite a responsible line of inquiry considering whom it’s coming from. Throughout the years, Veenre has not only unofficially been the spokesperson for Estonian Jewellery as a whole by giving a face and a voice to this special sect of the jewellery field to international eyes and ears – but he is also one of the few brave artists in general leading the way for change and new relevancy for the field of Contemporary Jewellery as a whole, by more closely associating it to other art and cultural genres. And as such, the Estonian team has followed with a reputation of taking itself seriously (having high quality exhibitions, publications, and have created a solid identity) while working with and enjoying a special sense of fantasy, mysticism and poetry that is always captivating and uniquely their own.

Some of the more intriguing and relevant work included in ESTONISHING ! came from Nils Hint, a younger face in the field that is getting noticed on an international level more and more steadily for his flattened iron work. He takes ready-made tools like wrenches from the scrap yard to join and then flatten using a power hammer and other blacksmithing techniques. The more striking pieces in this exhibition however were those more three-dimensional, utilizing iron elements as means to draw. Purposefully phallic or cross-like objects (like his Mahine1 (Manful) brooch, forged iron, 2015) were created to imply a “childish or primitive kind of street art, like dicks drawn on the wall,” says the artist.

Alternatively, Ketli Tiitsar and her Teine Olemus (Second Nature) brooches and necklace, made from ash wood, silver, pigment (2016) added a more internal sensibility to the show. The pieces, visually delicate and alive speak about Tiitsar’s personal memory utilizing materials from places that she knows, in an intimate manner of speaking. The wood recalls her family’s tradition of cutting firewood to heat their home, and in a sense she carries on with that repetitive tradition through her practice while paying respect to it at the same time. They are also very hip and modern pieces which is an excellent juxtaposition to the sentimentality involved.

Maarja Niinemägi’s simple and elegant engraved stone brooches, Ööparved (Night Floats), are also noteworthy for their pure and natural qualities. Essentially collages made from milky opal, buffalo horn, mother of pearl, silver and gold (2013), they are made to inspire a sense of grouping and collective metaphorical floating.

Although just three examples here, from the outside, it looks as though it must also be nature that connects most of these Estonian jewellery artists. What runs true and deep in someone sometimes goes personally unnoticed or unsaid because it is so much a part of them; their bond to nature didn’t need to be verbalized to be felt.

And what about the connection made by their fearless leader, Kadri Mälk? Veenre poses this question as well, as all the artists are alumni of the Estonian Academy of Arts from the jewellery and Blacksmithing department, twelve of the thirteen being Mälk’s former students. The veneration of this woman, who has been a professor at EAA for a long long while, reverberates far beyond the confines of Estonia and is inextricable from the work of any of her alumni no matter how far it travels. Needless to say Mälk herself was also a part of this exhibition, her dark pieces swirling with qualities of secrecy and fascination seem to provide us a window into her soul. This characteristic, rarely found to be so strong in Contemporary Jewellery, illicits a feeling of witchcraft and seduction, further breathing life into the cult-like nature Estonian Contemporary Jewellery possesses. It is safe to say that today’s Estonian jewellers are their own leg of the jewellery cult (Cult Jewellery, let’s go on to call it), and they have the world’s attention.

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Nils Hint

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Maarja Niinemägi

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Ketli Tiitsar

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The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue designed by Asko and Julia Maria Künnap. In addition to presenting the work, each artist reveals something about themselves through one Estonian word and an illustrative image.

Curators: Thomas Cohn and Tanel Veenre

Participating artists:
Kadri Mälk, Tanel Veenre, Piret Hirv, Kristiina Laurits, Villu Plink, Nils Hint, Sofja Hallik, Eve Margus-Villems, Darja Popolitova, Maria Valdma, Julia Maria Künnap, Maarja Niinemägi, Ketli Tiitsar

The design of the exhibition is a collaboration by all the participating artists.

Supporters: Thomas Cohn, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Susan Cummins, Helena Pahlman, Mart Kalm, Law Office Ehasoo&Partners, SA Noor Ehe, Emil Urbel

The Bright House

Saturday September 27, Camucia – Cortona, Italy / location: Tenimenti Luigi d’Alessandro Winery

The Bright House, a review

by Kellie Riggs

I used to talk frequently of the dream show; I never knew what it was exactly or what it looked like, but the idea was basically to imagine a space where jewelry could truly be itself, speaking for itself without too much help. The work would be together yet independent, emboldened by its company and especially by its surroundings, surroundings much different than your average jewelry exhibition, someplace more inviting. But what kind of new space would it have to be, to give each individual piece its own privacy so to speak, it’s own fortified spotlight beyond the pretense of what we are used to seeing in an installation?

The word dream implies beyond reality, the ideal, exaltation even, and that’s exactly what The Bright House was – a 48 hour ultimate jewelry fantasy if you will – if as though contemporary jewelry threw itself an exclusive, budget-less birthday party with the highest consideration of taste, beauty and even restraint. But what else would one expect when the background for the show is the grounds of a spacious and immaculate Tuscan Villa, with the colors and winds of nature sweeping through the air like magic? There were no white walls to be found here, just glass as though the surrounding structures to the jewelry were nothing more than an illusion, almost an invisible stage for the jewels on display. No cases, no security, an open invitation to touch, to try, and the opportunity for dialogue as many of the artists were also present. A feeling of safety and calmness was in circulation, a true haven of delicacies, many of which were gold.

The show was defined by two groupings of work in two locations of display, both a glass house separated by a beautiful foot path that seemed to encourage a reflectiveness of the experience. As the groomed nature infiltrated the exhibition space through the windows the textural components of each body of work was rightfully amplified; even Helen Britton’s industrial-esque work began to really belong to the environment, the movement of her cuffs became leaflike, the colors echoing the fallen foliage in the grass just yards away and the sounds they make during interaction would perhaps compliment walking in the grass through the signs of the approaching fall. Across the space was another compliment to the show’s surroundings, but this time more to the light through the trees and the changing hues of green, like in the work of Jamie Bennet, paired nicely with Peter Bauhius who presented three natural pebble-like necklaces.

Across the room was a Smörgåsbord of geometric golden treats all of which were characteristically Babetto, the most exciting piece being a quite impressively flexible and reversible square component necklace defying physical odds when handled. Anytime I see Babetto’s work I know i’m in the right place.. he brings a sense of ease to the room somehow, as by seeing him you know the rest of the work from other artists has got to be worth something. Giampaolo Babetto is my first jewelry hero and seeing new iterations of himself, which his work always seems to be, is exciting for me in all of its variations and subtleties; take for example the use of a rustic, rusty red pigment seen in his new work.

Up the footpath and into the next glass house of which the back wall features a bit of the outside world. Giant rocks climbing up the walls frame a mirrored fountain and in its vicinity more treasures are to be found. To the right Manfred Bischoff has a row of his sculptural and almost cryptically narrative gold work which are always an impressive sight, opposite that of Jacqueline Ryan whose more intimate and textural work dazzles. Ryan’s presence reintroduces the show’s connection with the surrounding nature through surface quality and moments of movement. She also forms a somewhat unexpected association to Patrick Davison’s non jewelry work (found in the same room) through shared pattern and geometry. Davison, whose pieces are the only of its kind in the exhibition, is also by far the youngest artist present, proving his work to be even more impressive than a first glance will lead on.

Something I found delightful about this exhibition is that many of the artists echo one another in sometimes indistinct yet fun ways. Rike Bartels (shown in the first glass house) to Bischoff though is perhaps too obvious an example, obvious to the the point that Bartels becomes a bit amiss once Bischoff is discovered. Alternatively, Ryan’s work is the glue of the whole exhibition noted in the way she positively brings the two spaces together, well balancing both Babetto and Britton’s work through kinetics and form, and recollecting Ferràn Iglesias’ extremely delicate, patient and passionate gold wire work from the previous room.

The Bright House is much much greater than the sum of its parts. There is no question here whether the work is good or of the highest quality, yet I will note that this particular group is surely not the most relevant or contemporary of groups in the scene at large today. In a field that seems to get fresher and fresher every year, choosing such traditionalists could have posed a problem. But on the contrary, some of the artists here are introspective legends and masters of material and they deserve the space for uninterrupted tactile and even spiritual reflection that this exhibition successfully provided… all very much dream-like to say the least.

The Bright House

The Bright House

The Bright House, location

Helen Britton

Jamie Bennet

 Peter Bauhuis

Peter Bauhius

Giampaolo Babetto Giampaolo Babetto Giampaolo Babetto Giampaolo Babetto Giampaolo Babetto

The Bright House

Manfred Bischoff

Jacqueline Ryan

Jacqueline Ryan Patrick Davison   Patrick Davison

Rike Bartels

Manfred Bischoff

Jacqueline Ryan

Ferràn Iglesias

Ferràn Iglesias

The Bright House, location

The Bright House , Lucia Massei foreground

Patrick Davison and work

Patrick Davison talking with Jacqueline Ryan about his work

Antonella Villanova (left), with Giampaolo Babetto necklace

Patrick Davison (left)  with Giampaolo Babetto necklace and artist (right)

The Bright House

The Bright House

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. 

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Have you seen the new Current Obsession Magazine yet? It’s basically the very first of its kind!!!!!!!!

CO originally existed as a blog about contemporary jewelry and then a website (promoting the field through the voices of the artists) created by the talented, Marina Elenskaya (artist and editor in chief of the magazine). And as of March 2013, CO now also exists as a bi-annual printed magazine that debuted at this year’s Schmuck. Marina and Sarah Mesritz (the creative director of the mag) launched the first issue, The Archetypein Munich, which was really exciting for me because they invited me to be a contributing writer/editor for the issue.

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Here I am at Schmuck after having my first look inside the magazine. It’s the first time i’ve been published, and in the photo above, the page is opened to my introduction and interview with Karl Fritsch. The segment shows new pieces by the artist that were also exhibited at two Schmuck exhibitions.

Click —–> here for a peak inside.

I also had the pleasure of working with Alexander Blank on another interview about his new series, also exhibited at Schmuck.

Alexander Blank, King of my Blues exhibition

The CO team also asked me to help them create a guide for all the Schmuck events this year to help visitors navigate the city. After having contacted every artist or organizer for all the collateral Schmuck exhibition (for photos and information regarding their event), we tried to create a descriptive teaser, basically CO’s Schmuck 2013 picks, highlighting various initiatives we thought were worth seeing. To see the PDF, click —-> here

from CO Facebook page

Below are some photos of Marina and Sarah giving a presentation at the Messe, where the main Schmuck show was situated.

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To learn more about the wonderful backpack and suitcase by the design team Hanemaai shown above, click —> here!

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Above, Volker Atrops giving some critical feedback to the team, which you should feel free to do also! We are always looking for comments and are eager to hear what you think.

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Marina and contributing editor/husband, Chris van der Kaap at the show, Schmuck You, presented by Galerie Biró Junior and featuring the work of Réka Lorincz and Flora Vági.

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Super babes Marina with artist and friend, Suzanne Beautyman 

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Sarah Mestriz toting around the mag and the guide at the Pinakothek der Moderne.

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Below is artist/researcher/writer, Aaron Decker, another contributing editor of the CO magazine.

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from CO Facebook page

Some team shots, below with superstar, Tanel Veenre

from CO Facebook page

CURRENT OBSESSION 
– is a new printed magazine about jewellery and its relation to different fields of art — performance, illustration, photography, etc. Apart from jewellery artists and critics, we feature material researchers, fashion designers, collagists and many more. Our goal is to create a different dimension for jewellery in printed environment. We tell inspiring stories about people and places, touching upon subjects like value, language and presentation.
Our motto is “JEWELLERY IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT “

check it out:  OPEN CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS !

“The second issue of the magazine will be about “The Youth” – students, newly graduates, alumni and up-and-coming artists, keeping in mind that being young is not about the age, but about the attitude!
Release date of the second issue – October 2013 launched in Barcelona JOYA/Amsterdam SIERAAD/Eindhoven DDW.

We have created this open call for contributions because we are searching for:

– Projects that connect jewellery to other fields of art/design/fashion: performance, photography, illustration, audiovisual, collage, sculpture, etc.)
– Research projects: material, formal and theoretical
– Great new jewellery!
– Hardworking writers!

Our goal is to show the diversity and potency of the upcoming generation, to outline their standpoint and tendencies and to address the problems and choices the young makers are subject to.

To contribute or for more information, please email to:
info@current-obsession.com with THE YOUTH as the message subject.

Deadline: beginning of June 2013 “

————–

Check out the CO website to order a physical copy of the first issue.

or, here is the LIST OF RETAILERS :

+Klimt02 BARCELONA
+Galerie Rob Koudijs AMSTERDAM
+Gallery Ra AMSTERDAM
+Athenaeum Nieuwscentrum AMSTERDAM
+Do You Read Me!? BERLIN
+You Are Here EINDHOVEN
+Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h MONTREAL (QUEBEC)
+ ATTA Gallery BANGKOK
+Chrome Yellow Books LONDON
+ Galley P’LACE DRESDEN

Today I received a delightful email from a friend and thought it might be of interest. What do we think? IS MY FRIEND RIGHT? 

Today is a day I hate contemporary art jewellery. I’m tired of it. Sometimes I think the lowest level (intellectually) of art is put out there by ‘Art Jewellers’. Jumped up hobbists who have no real skills in the ancient craft that is body adornment and goldsmithing. JUST BECAUSE YOU HAD A ACCIDENT WITH SOME RESIN IN A CUP, DOES NOT MAKE YOU AN ARTIST. Even a baby artist. 

Gallery Facade

Image courtesy of Caroline Van Hoek 

KR: Your gallery is located in a space that looks as though it’s still a humble food market. How does the everyday nature of the grocery store reflect the subtleties and universality of artworks in contemporary jewelry?

CVH: Humble is not an aspect I saw in it first although there is a lot of humbleness involved as well !

I recognized going to this kind of shop with my mother and seeing the owner taking extra care of her, she was never the big supermarket kind. He knew what kind of apples she wanted; he knew she liked her tomatoes in this way and not another way. He knew when he could have a season specialty which one he could put aside for her. He would carry it out, keeps things aside. Everything was stacked high and all over and he could still find exactly what he needed. This is the similarity with the current activity of the place. It occurred naturally to my mind, without thinking.

Do you see the gallery as an artwork in and of itself?

I never did, although people start to know of it as “the grocery store” and either they understand or it makes them think and hopefully they get it.

You are also located in an area with other contemporary art galleries. What is the overall reception of your space and of the work you carry in relation to those other galleries? Is it considered equal to the art world on a local level?

Here as for any other jewelry gallery in the world, jewelry is starting to gain more attention in general as a collector’s item. Most people do not know there is something else than high jewelry, couture jewelry, artist jewelry or fashion jewelry.  All the types can exist with each other.  The most important factor in this comparison is “qualitative” jewelry. “Qualitative” jewelry will gain attention and rise in value, whether it is a nice Cartier piece, a great Chanel bracelet or a Picasso pendant.

Just like many others in our field, it seems that a big part of your mission as an art-jewelry gallerist is to show jewelry from different perspectives than most people outside our sphere are used to. Would you like to speak a bit about your writing projects and what kind of language you’ve needed to develop to do so?

There is not one single answer to that. It’s like when people buy art, some want a whole explanation, some others just want to look at a piece and fall in love with it. As a gallery you feel when is the right level of education necessary for which audience.

What is the importance of travel to your gallery and attending international events like Design Miami for example; events not solely related to contemporary jewelry? 

When I started there were some established galleries around. Brussels and Amsterdam are only two hours away from each other. You have to take your ball and find new friends to play with.

How often do you find yourself giving a comprehensive explanation for the type of gallery you have; Would you define your role as a gallerist somewhat similar to that of an educator?

Yes, every day, all day. To everyone, schools, clients and press.

Recently you have celebrated the 5th anniversary of your gallery. Can you talk a bit about the exhibition, This was 2007?

It is a very personal exhibition and based upon a very limited time frame. It just illustrates how little my environment was when I opened the gallery. It shows work from people I was in touch with, or work that impressed me and work from some artists with whom we work now. It is only a recollection of some interaction. Not a selection based on quality whatsoever.

What would you say has been accomplished since you’ve opened your doors?

Too much to say ! I had nothing and knew nothing, no experience in galleries, no clients, no acquaintances in Brussels, nothing.

What should we look for in the next five years to come? 

Hmm, I am dying for some more organization and structure, the rest is a secret :0)

—–

Caroline Van Hoek is a contemporary art jewelry gallery located in Brussels, Belgium. 

“Open since 04.10.2007.
Previously a grocery store, the outside facade has been left exactly as it was, to honor what it represents. The local shop around the corner, the close contact with the clientele, the seasonal availability of goods, the limited number of groceries and the respect for the individuality.”

Please visit the gallery website —> here

NoteThis interview was conducted in the fall of 2012 and originally destined for AJF, facilitated by Susan Cummins.  Alternatively, ≥ has the pleasure of posting it and thanks Caroline for her participation. 

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