“The Art of Gold,” which opens April 3 and runs through August 8 at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, presents 80 contemporary gold objects, including jewelry, hollowware, vessels and small sculptures in which gold is the essential focus.
The exhibition curator is Michael W. Monroe, former Curator-in-Charge for the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The exhibition and tour is organized by the Society of North American Goldsmiths and Exhibits USA.
In contrast to mass-produced jewelry designed by specialists and fabricated in a factory, the jewelry and objects showcased in “The Art of Gold” are made by hand within a small studio setting.
“The art in the exhibition title references fine art influences on contemporary goldsmiths, such as modernism, minimalism, pop art, neo-Expressionism and conceptual art,” noted Melissa Post, curator.
“The studio goldsmith conceives innovative, aesthetic designs to satisfy his or her own personal vision,” wrote Michael Monroe in the exhibition catalogue. “They are creating meaningful statement through fabricated form, masterfully manipulating the elements of art to achieve a clarity and unity of expression.”
Studio jewelers are a relatively recent phenomenon, fueled by the influx of WW II veterans enrolling in art schools on the GI bill. The sculptor Alexander Calder is credited as being the first of the breed developed during the post World War II modernist movement. Calder’s wildly inventive brass and silver jewelry was shown alongside his sculpture in major galleries.
Modernism, with its dictates that useful design be rigorously functional, was the major influence on the first generation of studio goldsmiths. Ronald Hayes Pearson’s “Torque 18-142” exemplifies modernist jewelry with its smooth, minimal form, high polish finish and beautiful craftsmanship in showcasing an impressive amethyst stone.
The majority of gold jewelry and objects featured in “The Art of Gold” are post modern, where craftsmen became free to play upon jewelry conventions in amusing and provocative ways. The scale of pieces expanded as the human body became a fashion pedestal for sculpture.
Like other craft artists in the later 20th century, goldsmiths began exploring new combinations of material, including glass, ceramic, fabric, rubber and even paper in place of precious stones. Don Friedlich’s “Translucence Series Brooch” is a geometrical design framing a pair of dichroic glass rods that refract light into opposite colors. Ken Loeber’s “Brooch 109512” combines gold and coral. Perhaps most amazing is a ring created by Kathy Buszkiewicz, “Omnia Vanitas II.” A pearl is set within what appears to be a green oval of classic symmetrical design that is actually carefully shaped and finished paper currency.
The museum is at 220 North Tryon Street. For information, 704-337-2000 or www.mintmuseum.org.