The Boston MFA's exhibit Crafted: Objects in Flux (August 25, 2015 to January 10, 2016) challenged and effectively obliterated the false dichotomy between craft and art in a way that reminds me of the 40 Under 40: Craft Futures show at the Renwick Gallery in 2012. This exhibit, curated by Emily Zilber, goes even further by including artists of multiple generations and multiple nationalities. The show is also very important in breaking down the barriers between "craft" and "art" because, surprisingly, it is the first time an exhibit of this kind has been held in an encyclopedic museum.
My favorite work in the show were these pyrographs by Japanese-American artist Etsuko Ichikawa.
Trace 2012 and Trace 2112
glass pyrographs on paperThe pyrographs themselves are both beautiful and interesting but what makes them truly great is watching the accompanying video that shows how Etsuko makes them -- by snaking molten glass on paper and using an immense amount of skill in creating beautiful designs without causing the the entire effort to go up in flames. Part dance, part performance, part glass making, the end result is a work that captures a unique moment in time.
still from glass pyrograph video
still from glass pyrograph videoCharlotte Potter's Pending is an interesting conceptual piece. She projected a map of the US on the wall and placed a cameo pendant of her pending Facebook friend requests on their location.
hand-engraved glass cameos, metal, images courtesy of FacebookThe length of the rod is proportional to the number of their mutual Facebook friends. Additionally, she very skillfully carved the image on the cameos from her friend's Facebook profile picture.
Pending (closeup)Greg Payce, a Canadian artist, sculpts amazing negative space images with porcelain vases that he throws by hand. Unfortunately, because I hate reading wall text in museums, I totally missed the images he creates and, consequently, didn't get a good picture of the actual vases in the exhibit.
Adam and Eve
Two lenticular photographs of porcelain vasesChristy Oates often ties the traditional decorative furniture technique of marquetry with conceptual art. Here she has created work that you might expect to be made for the top of high-end furniture but they are designed using a computer algorithm based on the top trending Google news story of the day. There were fifteen pieces on display representing fifteen days in September 2011.
Fifteen segments in various woodsThankfully, there was an accompanying video to clarify her process.
still from Kaleidoscope Algorithm videoSimilarly, Alison Elizabeth Taylor uses the same traditional technique to "paint" a very different type of contemporary commentary.
Alison Elizabeth Taylor
Tap Left On
wood veneer, shellac
Her work often deals with working class issues, which is an interesting contrast to the "craft" typically used as decoration for economic elites.
Alison Elizabeth Taylor
wood veneer, shellac, aluminumChien-Wei Chang, a Taiwanese-British artist, created this Huge Ladle (I'm guessing it is about five feet long). With it he plays with the concept of craft objects being functional. Additionally, his ladles are conceptual, relating to his own journey of emigration -- being scooped out of one container and being placed into another.
silver plating, padauk woodFaig Ahmed is an artist from Azerbaijan who uses traditional rug making techniques and styles of his culture as a launching pad to visually tie the past with the present.
Handmade woven carpetWith her Hair Craft Project, Sonya Clark honors artists that are traditionally overlooked and under-valued. Over a one year period she visited eleven hairdressers and had them create their art in two forms, ephemerally on her head and permanently on canvas.
The Hair Craft Project
Hairstylists with Sonya
color photographsShe also photographed the artist with their creation, thereby literally and metaphorically standing up for the work so that it can be seen as museum quality art.
The Hair Craft Project
Hairstyles on Canvas
silk threads, beads, yarn, shells on canvasAstrid Krogh is a Danish artist who created this beautifully woven optical fiber "fabric." The title, Ikat II, refers to a technique of resist dying that allows subtle bleeding of the colors, similar to how the different color light fibers interact with each other. As such, it is a work that is equally contemporary and traditional.
woven optical fibers, paper yarn, light monitors
With this closeup you can more clearly see the weaving pattern and the subtle bleed of color caused by the interaction of light.
Ikat II (closeup)
In all there were forty-one artists in the exhibit representing an amazing amount of diversity in styles, techniques, and background. The quality of work was great but what I truly loved was seeing a major fine art museum breaking down barriers between it collections and expanding the definition of what "fine art" means.