There is a show at the MFA that is up until Jan 10th that you must see! It’s called Crafted: Objects in Flux. The show is a collection of work made in methods traditionally considered to be crafts including, ceramics, wood, textiles. The idea that techniques used since the dawn of civilization to make functional things we need to live such as, dishes, clothing, utensils and furniture are not fine art, is blown out of the water. The show is divided into three categories each poses thought provoking questions which stimulated me to see the work in new ways and to understand many new concepts. I will describe 4 of the 50 incredible works which were made by 41 artists – all since 2003. Crafted: Objects in Flux, demonstrates the use of traditional craft techniques in unique, masterful, experimental and transformative ways.
On one wall are 11 color photos of the artist with intricate braided hair styles. Beside her stands the hairdresser. Directly across are flattened out representations of the hair styles done in needle point. As part of the The Performative Object section of the show, which asks the question: How might an object be made through performance, perform in the world, or perform its own making? The Hair Craft Project: Hairstylists with Sonya by Sonya Clark communicates a visseral understanding of the physical labor and manual dexterity required.
This abstract sculpture was also in The Performance Object section. After reading the wall text, I was able to experience the piece in a deeper way. Imagining the artists’ process, I could see the soft clay being pulled and cut and then plopping onto the floor. I imagine that at that moment the idea for the piece was discovered.
The shows next theme The Immersive Object is framed by the question: How can shifting the physical encounter in the gallery change our perception and understanding of the crafted object? Here is one example: Entering this part of the show felt very exciting. Suddenly you are surrounded by large collections of objects, traditional craft materials including ceramics, glass and wood— being used in very non-functional ways. Shards of pottery explode into space; shimmering mirrors dangle from the ceiling, light is filtered through beautiful colors and unusual shapes.* Off the main gallery I came upon an alcove where fabric was hanging down from the 20 ft. high ceiling. The blue/green fabric fell just about to my waist and invited me to explore. As I walk into the piece, I focus on the texture and uniform stitches on wide overlapping seams. I realize it is leading me in a spiral, but when I arrive at the center, nothing is there. As I turn to leave, a wall covered with wilting, aromatic green leaves, perhaps basil, comes into view. At that moment, I am transported to a memory of a quiet pine forest.
Mobile Section, 2015 by Roland Ricketts
The third theme, The Re-Tooled Object , hits close to home with the question: How do new modes of fabrication, whether digital or analog, expand artistic possibilities? For the past 4 years I have had the opportunity to use many new fabrication technologies at The Artisan’s Asylum where I have my studio. I had big dreams of using the laser cutter and cnc machines to cut perfect wood parts with the touch of a button that would increase the finished quality of my work. But I was stymied by having to learn new software, the gate way to digital design.
A collection of black & white objects are displayed on a 3 leveled wall unit. From a distance I was not able to identify the material from which the squares, cones, cylindrical and other shapes were made. Again the label provided necessary information. The white side is made of clay and the black side was 3D printed, in other words, plastic. Strings of plastic are melted and then layered one on top of the other in a tediously long time consuming process. At the Asylum, I mostly see people designing mechanical parts and other functional products.
This piece encourages me because I feel it’s the first time I’ve seen the process explored in an artistic manner. As I examined the surfaces, I saw texture and color variations – which I then compared to the ceramic pieces. I see the artist is speaking in an artistic language by producing shapes traditionally used in learning to drawing perspective and shading, the tools of creating the illusion of 3 dimensionality. One can look at 3D printing like casting and mold making. In any case, I am not sold on working in toxic plastic- but I am motivated to get back to learning software so that I can pursue my original ideas.
If you go see Crafted: Objects In Flux, please come back and share your impressions in the comments below!
Flux was curated by Emily Zilber (MFA Ronald C. and Anita L. Wornick) Curator of Contemporary Decorative Art and consists of over 50 incredible works by 41 artists- all made since 2003. Learn about free tours of the show as well as a 3 week lecture series The Path to Contemporary Craft being held Dec. 1 – 15
Articles about the show: