This week the New York Times reviewed the Museum of Art and Design’s MULTIPLE EXPOSURES, curated by Ursula Ilse-Neuman, with a shout out to Lauren Kalman and many other great artists. On the heels of heavy criticism for MAD’s current exhibition NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial, critic Martha Schwender writes of Multiple Exposures: “…much here shows what can happen, as in any good collage, when you juxtapose disparate practices — in this case, the ancient one of adorning the body with foreign objects with the more recent technology of fixing images upon surfaces. The added benefit with jewelry is that it is generally small enough to include a multitude of examples and a range of experiments on one floor of a museum.”
It is refreshing to read in a publication like the venerable New York Times, a review that easily and cohesively talks about jewelry as tethered to fine art. Of course, to the initiated, Schobinger is not the only jewelry artist transgressing or manipulating ideas about jewelry but it IS wonderful to read in print: “One of my favorite works in the wear-a-photograph genre is a necklace by Bernhard Schobinger made of large fragments of torn-up 19th-century silver prints threaded onto a thin gold chain. Transgressing the sacredness of vintage photos and the idea of jewelry as a skilled craft, Mr. Schobinger’s object has the perverse spirit of Dada and Surrealism, as well as that of contemporary artists, like Ai Weiwei and Jake and Dinos Chapman, who have destroyed precious art objects to make new ones. Looking closer, you see that the photo fragments show isolated legs, arms and heads — a bit like Mexican “milagros” (miracles), tiny golden pendants depicting an arm or leg or heart, worn with an aim to heal the body part represented.”
No culture has existed in this world that does not adorn. Exhibiting and curating jewelry is a rich and fertile way for museums to expand upon our understanding (and appreciation for) the history of art and culture. No other art form is as intimate and familiar. Contemporary artists that use adornment as a vehicle for their ideas know this. The choices they make are not random, but laboriously studied and fostered in the art colleges and universities and then wrung out, dried and wrung again in the studio. Next, let’s see an exhibition that includes contemporary artist jewelry alongside sculptors, painters and other object makers. And please, don’t just include jewelry made by famous sculptors who dabble in jewelry – but artists who understand the canon that jewelry demands and subvert it, raise it up, manipulate it and give it flesh.