Debra Baxter, Devil Horns Crystal Brass Knuckles (Lefty), 2015, quartz crystal and sterling silver, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist in honor of Joanna and David Baxter, 2016.11, © 2015, Debra Baxter; Photo by Kim Richardson.
The Renwick's reinstallation of more than eighty objects from its permanent collection—Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery—brings together artists working in media as diverse as vinyl, denim, quartz, and glass. It also contrasts the return of old favorites such as Ghost Clock by Wendell Castle and Box of Falling Stars by Lenore Tawney with recent acquisitions by a new generation of craft artists who are shaking up traditional notions of craft by blending new ideas with new technology. In selecting both pioneering and contemporary pieces, Nora Atkinson, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft at the Renwick, explores the underlying current of craft as a balancing, humanistic force in the face of an ever-more efficiency-driven, virtual world.
Connections is designed to break free of traditional exhibition layout based on chronology or material. Instead, the exhibition seeks to connect objects by stories and relationships, much the same way that clicking on a hyperlink help us make connections online. The exhibition does away with hierarchical distinctions and the idea of the curator's voice as absolute authority, instead presenting works that engender ever-evolving associations and interpretations. Visitors are encouraged to find their own path through a vast network of possibilities that highlight explicit connections as well as subtle, unexpected resonances among the artworks on view.
"Craft objects do not exist in a vacuum," Atkinson said. "Each artwork tells many stories, and each is made even more interesting through relationships to other objects and ideas. As that object continues to develop meanings and spawn questions through contact with other artworks, it remains vital in a changing world."
Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery opens July 1 and remains on view indefinitely.