We know that Holly Golightly had Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Marilyn Monroe sang in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes that “ a kiss on the hand is quite continental, but diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Gems and all that glitter has been a non-stop romance that adorns and embodies the seductive allure of luxury. AF had the lush opportunity to visit last November 29th at Claire Oliver Gallery on West 26th Street for Beyond Bling: The Artist as Jeweler.
Encased in glass jewelry cases and shelves were handcrafted works of art done by artists who crossed over to create jewelry. Everyone salivated as they saw the jeweled works of art resting on black velvet as one roamed around the cases. Their versions and ideas of wearable art gave confirmation that the artist is by far the visionaries who are key to trendsetting or style forecasting. At the height of the Renaissance, the artist had close relationships with their wealthy patrons that they fashioned status accoutrements which included hand crafted jewelry. You’ve probably heard about the legendary Lucrezia Borgia with her ring filled with poison in a secret compartment to dispense of her enemies. Not to say there wasn’t any deadly jewelry at the exhibition, there was a molded in gold shark’s jaws of death as necklace that felt morbidly decadent. Innovatively designed for sure and only an artist can see such possibilities in a relatively chic fashion.
Attention to detail is paramount to crafting the gems and baubles that the artists have created. It is not only to be ostentatious but redefine material and concepts of form to sport what is considered “wearable art”. There were ghostly cameos, opulent networks of hooks, intricate chains, hand hammered flora or fauna, a glass lobster claw neck piece that is a homage to Salvador Dali, and the endless array of artistically made jewelry from creators delving into it with fun and outright bold re-imagination. The pieces also transformed the wearer into somebody with a unique aura or embody a fierce character. This is not a parade of Harry Winston’s, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, etc. on the red carpet. These are signature pieces that are thought provoking, amazing craftsmanship, unabashed bravado, and brilliant artistic expressions.
Jewelry aims to display wealth by setting the gemstones and cutting it to the brilliance of a thousand suns. The goal is to be glittering in wealth and showcasing the size and amount you have to wear in one item. The artists that participated in this show fashioned their pieces with emphasis on concept rather than highlighting the precious materials. Sure it is still luxurious in feeling but sheer creativity is the abundance in riches. From the smallest pins to the elaborate neck pieces, each artist crafted an item of their own self-expression and remained true to their artistic mettle. Therein lies the demarcation of expensive baubles for status versus wearable art that creates a statement.
Artisanal is the key word that adds pedigree and from the numerous pieces shown at this exhibition that there is new current of crafting and fine art being realized here. Using blown glass, paint, crystals, stone, and semi-precious metals that all the displayed treasures are meticulous works of art that aim to break the barrier of artist being weighed down only by concept as they are now challenged to be crafters. The challenge is met in so many various ways from fantastical to innovative forms. I think it keeps the artist on their toes as well when they are forced to re-think their creative impulses on an entirely different genre. From art on the wall to art you can wear – it develops new creative fixtures and products of adornment.
The Participating Artists (established & emerging) are as follows:
Lynda Benglis / Fletcher Benton / Lauren Bergman / Dina Brodsky / Norbert Brunner / Andy Denzler / Andrew Erdos / Lori Field / Scott Goodwillie / Megan Greene / Kirsten Hassenfeld / Martin Herbst / Herb Jackson / Ulysses Jackson / Jessica Joslin / Kim Keever / Beth Lipman / Karen Marston / Jesse McCloskey / Jazz-minh Moore / John Okulick / Charlotte Potter / Judy Rifka / Julie Rofman / Bernardí Roig / Eva Schlegel / Matthew Sleeth / Alexis Smith / Alfred Steiner / Gabi Trinkaus / Dewain Valentine / William T. Wiley
They say not all that glitters is gold but in the case of this dazzling show at Claire Oliver Gallery proved all that glitters is art. This shining beacon of artistry and enduring luxurious romance of an exhibition is planned to travel to public institutions throughout the country. Better catch it in the glamorous streets of Chelsea’s gallery row while it’s still glimmering in its artful glow.
Beyond Bling: The Artist as Jeweler / November 29, 2012 – January 12, 2013
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday (10 am – 6 pm)
Claire Oliver Gallery. 513 West 26th Street. NYC, NY 10001
Art review by: Oscar A. Laluyan
Art Images provided by Claire Oliver Gallery courtesy of the artists
Event photography by: Deukyun Hwang