Sunday, July 27, 2014

A celebration of the careful craftsperson.

NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial wasn't the only thing I saw during my recent visit to the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD).  There was also a show called Re:Collection curated by "chief curator emeritus", (that's a job title I wouldn't mind having) David Revere McFadden. The exhibit represented McFadden's personal memories from his sixteen years as head of collections and exhibitions at the museum.  What I found interesting about the show is that it frequently felt like items in this show could have been included in the Makers show because of the virtuosity of their construction.  In fact, for my review of the show I want to focus on four stunningly well-crafted objects that dazzle for their technique. And yet they never let technique overpower their emotional punch.

Piper Shepard's Lace Meander looks like crocheted or knotted lace.  But in reality, it is all hand cut gessoed muslin. There are no repeated patterns in the entire work which took the artist one year to complete. It's lovely.

Piper Shepard, Lace Meander (2006, muslin, gesso, graphite, aluminum)
Detail: Piper Shepard, Lace Meander (2006, muslin, gesso, graphite, aluminum)

Stefan Dam's collection of glass jelly fish are mesmerizing. Their ability to fool the eye is uncanny, creating watery specimens that feel like they belong in an aquarium, except for the fact that they are frozen in time surrounded by silent bubbles.
Stefan Dam, Marine Group (2008, glass; hot worked)

One of the most emotionally powerful pieces in the show is Terese Agnew's Portrait of a Textile Worker which is a large, quilt-like image that is made from tens of thousands of re-purposed and transformed labels from designer clothing. The labels recreate a dramatic black and white photo supplied to the artist by the National Labor Committee. It shows an anonymous textile worker in a factory in Bangladesh. The artist commented, "The larger purpose of the work is to make the unseen or hidden visible--to make it possible to connect the seams in our clothes with an image of one face, an identity."
Terese Agnew, Portrait of a Textile Worker (2005, clothing labels, thread, and fabric backing)

Detail: Terese Agnew, Portrait of a Textile Worker (2005, clothing labels, thread, and fabric backing)

Even more surprising than Agnew's tag portrait is Todd Pavlisko's portrait of Richard Pryor. Pavlisko works in a wide variety of mediums that bridge two- and three-dimensionality. For this portrait he repurposed tens of thousands of plastic retail tag connectors.  The wall label quoted the artist, "I wanted to make an empowering portrait of Pryor that conceptually speaks about consumption. The retail tag underscores this gesture and forces my audience to 'consume' Richard Pryor. They also allow me to play with CMYK mapping, color theory, and printing processes used by marketing companies . . . to sell an image - another gesture of consuming."

Todd Pavlisko, Untitled, Richard Pryor (2011, retail tag fasteners, canvas)
Thanks Mr. McFadden for presenting a jaw-dropping show.

Instagrams from this museum visit:

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