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Celebrating 50 years of craft evolution

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Most people will recognize 1969 as the year that the massive concert Woodstock took place in Bethel, New York, and American astronaut Neil Armstrong planted the Stars and Stripes on the Moon.

But 1969 was also the year that crafts came into their own as a recognized art form in the U.S., thanks to the exhibition “OBJECTS: USA” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The wide-ranging show featured 308 craft artists and more than 500 objects.

“Pray for Us,” MJ Tyson. (Courtesy of form & concept)

A little more than 50 years later, some of those objects have arrived at the form & concept gallery in Santa Fe. From Jan. 31 to March 27, “OBJECTS: REDUX – 50 years of Craft Evolution,” which features the work of both historical and contemporary artists, will be on display at the Guadalupe Street gallery.

The show is inspired by “OBJECTS: REDUX – How 50 Years Made Craft Contemporary” curated by Kathryn Hall and Perry Price at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. It deftly juxtaposes work by the Smithsonian show’s participants, such as J. Fred Woell alongside modern-day artists such as as MJ Tyson.

“It’s wonderful to be a part of this show’s continued legacy,” said form & concept curator William Dunn. “Having the opportunity to work with Kathryn Hall and Perry Price, and traveling this exhibition as it was originally, is nothing short of a dream.”

“Search for Neverland,” J. Fred Woell, 2005. (Courtesy of form & concept)

Among the pieces on display at form & concept is Woell’s “Search for Neverland,” which to the untrained eye might look like a sardine can stuffed with mementos, including a picture of John F. Kennedy. Actually, the piece made of steel, aluminium, plastic, brass and paper is a somewhat oversized brooch.

Woell, who died at age 81 in 2015, was a metalsmith from Evergreen Park, Illinois, who specialized in found object assemblages. At least six of his pieces are in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s permanent collection, including “Nov. 22, 1963, 12:30 p.m.” created with found objects after JFK’s assassination.

Those who grew up Catholic might be tempted to pick up “Pray For Us,” Tyson’s necklace made out of religious medals, but alas, no touching is allowed.

A New Jersey native, Tyson received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2008 and returned for her MFA in 2017. Her artist’s bio says she is “centered on the relationship between people and their possessions.”

Some of the modern-day artists featured in the form & concept exhibit enjoy experimenting with historical processes. Trained in indigo farming and dyeing in Japan, Rowland Ricketts uses traditional methods to create contemporary works. Among the pieces featured in “OBJECTS: REDUX” are two pieces from Ricketts’ “Unbound” series.

“Unbound,Series 1, No. 5,” Rowland Ricketts. (Courtesy of form & concept)

The rustic, checkered textiles look like something your grandparents would have thrown in a basket to lay out a picnic lunch on the grass. In an artist’s statement, Ricketts says of his “Unbound” works, “Exposed for fading and selectively unwoven, these textiles are a meditation on the process of historicization, the formation of American identity, and the prevailing culture of the image.”

One of the most interesting “conversations” of the show is between a silk hanging created by Trude Guermonprez in 1965 and a piece by her student Kay Sekimachi called “Ogawa II,” completed in 1969. Both artworks greet the visitor as they walk into the gallery. According to Dunn, Guermonprez taught Sekimachi, but the student also influenced the teacher.

Metalwork and jewelry are among the many crafts featured in the form & concept show. There are textiles, pottery, woodwork, glass, sculpture, among other mediums.

In addition to Woell, among the artists from the original Smithsonian show are Ken Cory, Guermonprez, David Gilhooly, Otellie Loloma, Sekimachi and Bob Stocksdale, to name just a few.

In addition to Ricketts and his wife, Chinami Ricketts, and Tyson, contemporary artists represented in the show include Sonya Clark, Kat Cole, Jennifer Ling Datchuk, Raven Halfmoon, Yuri Kobayashi and Nancy Worden.