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Rina Peleg (b.1940), Untitled, 1983; porcelain, 39 x 20 x 12 inches; Gift of the Artist, Courtesy of the Nina Freudenheim Gallery, 1988

Rina Peleg (b.1940), Untitled, 1983; porcelain, 39 x 20 x 12 inches; Gift of the Artist, Courtesy of the Nina Freudenheim Gallery, 1988

Craft in Black and White

On View Friday, August 9, 2013–Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sylvia L. Rosen Gallery for Fine Art in Craft Media   

Through the minimalist use of black and white surfaces, artists draw attention to profile, texture, and mass. Focusing the viewer’s scrutiny, artists therefore can intensify their messages, ranging from an appreciation of traditional vessel form—as in Steven Merritt’s lustrous black ginger pot—to social commentary epitomized by Jozef Bajus’ wall sculpture, Ike, made from black roofing paper in response to the aftermath of devastating hurricanes, such as Hurricane Katrina.

Rina Peleg’s large untitled basket was woven with porcelain coils after her residency at Artpark. It defies the heavy weight of clay by standing three feet high as homage to all the anonymous women who kept alive the artistry of weaving and basketry for millennia.

David Shaner’s Pillow Pot displays both elegance in form and admiration for Native American artistry in its surface. The stoneware pot is coated with a black, metallic manganese crystal glaze that he developed and named in honor of the Pueblo potter Maria Martinez.

Sculptor, designer, and educator Wendell Castle is represented by two works dated thirty-three years apart. His humorous Molar Table (1969)—a functional side table that looks like a giant tooth—represents his first experimental series using non-natural materials after he had achieved national acclaim for his handcrafted, organically shaped, wood furniture. Spooning Chairs (2002), a sculpture made from Maple and Jelutong, subtly represents a loving biracial relationship while mesmerizing viewers with two simple, glyph-like chairs poised on a trompe l’oeil carved wooden pillow.

The idea and title for the exhibition came from Chief Curator Scott Propeack to complement the adjacent water-based installation, Shiver by Colleen Ludwig. He stated, “Details of form in a single color, like a solo instrument, provide the perfect entry to understanding the composition of an object. Considering each direct communication from the artist, we are better able to make sense of material and meaning they wish to share.” With this concept, he asked Nancy Weekly, Head of Collections and the Charles Cary Rumsey Curator, to select the artwork and curate the exhibition.

Weekly chose sixteen works by fifteen artists in the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s collection. In addition to the artists mentioned above, the exhibition includes work by Richard A. Butz, Paul R. Harp, Gail McCarthy, Trevor Ritchie, Kathi Roussel, Taeyoul Ryu, Bill Stewart, John K. Tracey, Julie York, and Sylvia L. Rosen, whose namesake gallery hosts the exhibition. Their furniture, vessels, and sculpture were created using traditional craft art media, such as wood and clay, as well as alternative substances, such as moldable polyester. Some artists borrowed forms from nature: sea urchins and other shells from crustaceans, seed pods, and insects. Social commentators, such as Julie York, address female identity and the concept of beauty coerced by conformity. A complex work, such as Shaman by Bill Stewart, was influenced by motifs from Native American and African art, which he blends with pop culture. In contrast, Taeyoul Ryu embodies the refinement of sophisticated design in his black and white rocking chair called Four. Although fully functional, it is far too beautiful to use and delights the eye with its perfect proportions. The range of approaches demonstrates how diverse the Center’s collection has become.