All the (Craft) World's a Stage
August 13, 2009
Staged Stories: Renwick Craft Invitational 2009 runs until January 3, 2010. Nicholas Bell, curator at the Renwick Gallery, introduces us to the art and artists now on exhibition.
What comes to mind when you hear the word 'craft'? Many think of handmade objects sized for use—vessels, chairs, baskets, and other things that serve various functions. For the artists represented in Staged Stories: Renwick Craft Invitational 2009, craft media such as glass, clay, and fiber offer a new range of expressive possibility. Christyl Boger, Mark Newport, Mary Van Cline, and SunKoo Yuh create theatrically inspired work that incorporates complex narratives and other dramatic elements. Prepare for your conception of craft to be demolished.
Boger makes Meissen-like ceramic people, too big to be kitsch, too small to be human. Poised between worlds, they clutch earthenware flotation devices, as if hoping for rescue from this awkward stage. Newport knits life-size superhero costumes—Batman, Rawhide Kid, and of course, Sweaterman—objects that aim to protect the wearer but stop little more than the cold. In an accompanying video and prints, the artist furiously takes on the next stitch, and the next, realizing that, “if he could just complete this, he could help.”
Van Cline uses an old Hasselblad camera to capture actors in natural settings. She then encapsulates these scenes in glass, giving them a depth and power that draws you in to their timeless world. Yuh draws on Korean folk tales, contemporary politics, and personal history to build stacks of porcelain figures and animals—totems telling several stories at once. Up to forty glazes run wild over each piece, offering each narrative a psychedelic edge.
Such tactile works make it hard to resist touching. Stop by the Interactive Gallery on your way out to handle a piece by each artist. There you can also add a few stitches of your own to a Newport project at the Sit ‘n’ Knit station. You too can help.
To see more work from the Renwick Invitational take a look at our exhibition slide show.
- Craft, Renwick, Knitting, Glass, Earthenware, American Art, Porcelain, Smithsonian American Art Museum
I just visited this exhibition today and was completely blown away! Boger's ceramic sculptures are both beautiful and hilarious, and I wonder how she makes those blow-up flotation devices look so realistic? The laughter continued as I visited Mark Newport's superheroes, but it was 'serious' laughter as this knitting does important work in unraveling some of the gendered narratives we live in. SunKoo Yuh's work just rocks - I could almost hear the music in the gallery. And then Van Cline entranced me with her exquisite, otherworldly glass.
But the best bit may just be the "Please Touch" signs in the Interactive Gallery. How often do you see that in a Museum? As a former sculpture scholar, I was in heaven being able to get my hands on some of these incredible artworks.
So don't miss it, or the "Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery" by Karen LaMonte on display just outside the exhibition. It's not part of the show or the Interactive Gallery, but you'll want to climb into this ethereal glass dress anyway and go looking for Cinderella's slippers...
Posted by: Nancy Proctor | Aug 21, 2009
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