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Craft Spoken Here (May 5–August 12, 2012)
Early next month, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will open an exhibition presenting objects by 39 craft artists from 11 countries who work in a variety of media, including ceramic, rubber, bronze, glass, wood, silver, silk, and natural fibers. Craft Spoken Here highlights both the distinctive approaches taken by each of the individuals represented in the exhibition as well as the formal and expressive affinities that they share. The links between these artists reflect the continuing vitality of craft as a form of visual expression, and underscore the fact that its practice, always evolving to encompass new materials and new techniques, spans continents and generations. International in scope, Craft Spoken Here also pays homage to Philadelphia’s vibrant craft tradition by featuring four prominent artists with local ties: Rebecca Medel, Doug Bucci, Jessica Julius, and Rudolf Staffel. The exhibition will connect with the crafting community through the CraftLAB, a space within the exhibition dedicated to demonstrating and exploring craft techniques, in which visitors will be invited to participate. Craft Spoken Here draws from holdings of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and is supplemented by works borrowed from artists and private collectors.
“Philadelphia has a robust tradition of making, teaching, and collecting craft,” notes Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer. “The Museum has been collecting works of this type since its inception in 1876 with the support of the Women’s Committee, whose dedication to craft is reflected in the annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, now in its 36th year. Craft Spoken Here celebrates both the international scope of craft and honors its importance to the Museum and to our city.”
The exhibition will be divided into three sections. Essential Element looks at continuing importance of line—the graphic gesture—as an expressive and compositional element in the work of artists. Rebecca Medel’s The One (1985) uses a network of lines to form a dense cube of knotted cotton and linen threads, dark on its fringes and progressively lighter towards the center, which creates the illusion of a luminous sphere floating in an atmospheric haze. The second section, Shape Shifting, includes works in clay, glass, wood, metal, paper, and fiber materials that have been fashioned into sculptural forms. Motoko Maio’s Kotodama (2008) is a folding screen in silk and linen that can be adjusted to divide a room, provide privacy, or rest decoratively in a corner. The final section is Gesture, which includes works that offer visual and emotional cues, such as the chaotic, seemingly uncontrollable framework of Jessica Jane Julius’s Static (c. 2008), in which hundreds of black glass flameworked threads combine in a sculptural evocation of the artist’s reoccurring dream.
“In an increasingly digitized age, the concept of ‘craft’ is surging back onto the national stage as a hallmark of what is valuable and unique about the human experience,” says Elisabeth Agro, The Nancy M. McNeil Associate Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative Arts. “This exhibition is intended to promote a discourse about craft as a field and as a seemingly universal type of visual language. Craft speaks to the continuing importance of visual expression in contemporary society: how we continue to communicate through nonverbal cues; how knowledge and experience are transferred from one generation to the next; and how a field moves forward and changes through bursts of innovation. Craft Spoken Here is at the forefront of the trend to bring this movement into fine arts scholarship.”
Craft Spoken Here will connect with the local crafting community through do-it-yourself opportunities at the CraftLAB, a designated space in the exhibition featuring demonstrations in a variety of mediums, art supplies, books about craft methods and materials, and a seating area. This exploratory and interactive component will provide a space for visitors to sit and discuss, to make and to learn. The CraftLAB will have an attendant present to lead tours and tutorials as well as workshops by leading crafters on jewelry making, quilting, bookbinding, and weaving. The space will be open to craft groups during public hours with free admission to the Perelman Building for pre-booked collectives. In addition, select Sundays will feature the Claymobile, a mobile studio from The Clay Studio, a world-renowned ceramic arts center in Philadelphia. The Claymobile will park outside the Perelman building to give visitors a hands-on ceramic experience. The Museum will also host woodturning demonstrations by artists affiliated with The Center for Art in Wood, a Philadelphia-based arts and educational institution dedicated to wood arts.
To complement Craft Spoken Here, the Perelman Store will feature only crafted items, along with how-to kits and books for aspiring crafters. In such materials as wood, steel, enamel, fiber, ceramic, plastic, and silver, the offerings will range from silk scarves made from neckties, hand-blown glass sculpture, hand-forged belt buckles, steel jewelry, and furniture fashioned from re-purposed traffic signs, many produced by artists living and working in Philadelphia.
Craft Spoken Here is made possible by The Leonard and Norma Klorfine Foundation Fund for Modern and Contemporary Craft. Additional support is provided by the Windgate Charitable Foundation and the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
In-kind support is provided in courtesy of A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts, Inc., Calico Corners, and Lion Brand Yarn.