Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery

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Steven Young Lee, Vase with Landscape and Dinosaurs, 2014

This summer the permanent collection returns to the Renwick Gallery with a dynamic new presentation of 80+ objects celebrating craft as a discipline and an approach to living differently in the modern world. The installation includes iconic favorites alongside new acquisitions made during the museum’s renovation, which will be displayed at the museum for the first time. Nora Atkinson, The Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, selected the objects and conceived the innovative presentation.

Atkinson’s arrangement breaks from typical display formats based on chronology or material to instead focus on the interconnectivity of objects and the overlapping stories they tell. The installation 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. Objects are loosely thematically organized to mimic an analog version of the Web, using an associative approach derived from the way we navigate today’s hyperlinked” world. 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. 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.”

Nora Atkinson, Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft


In selecting both pioneering and contemporary pieces, Atkinson also explores the underlying current of craft as a balancing, humanistic force in the face of an ever-more efficiency-driven, virtual world. The exhibition highlights the evolution of the craft field as it transitions into a new phase at the hands of contemporary artists, showcasing the activist values, optimism, and uninhibited approach of today’s young artists, which in some way echoes the communal spirit and ideology of the pioneers of the American Studio Craft Movement in their heyday.

The artworks range from the 1930’s through today and span numerous media. New acquisitions such as John Grade’s Shoal (Bone Shoal Sonance), Judith Schaechter’s The Birth of Eve, Marie Watt’s Edson’s Flag, and Akio Takamori’s Woman and Child make their debut in the gallery while seminal works including Wendell Castle’s Ghost Clock, Karen LaMonte’s Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery, Albert Paley’s Portal Gates, and Lenore Tawney’s Box of Falling Stars return to view.


Visiting Information

July 1, 2016 — February 202018
Open Daily, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m
Free Admission


Craft for a Modern World
Craft for a Modern World presents 150 of the Renwick Gallery’s 2,000 artworks in a new light, celebrating the restoration and reopening of its historic landmark home. Encouraging readers to find their own connections—as they have come to expect in today’s hyperlinked world—curator Nora Atkinson describes some of her associations among these artifacts of makers, both contemporary and pioneer. Readers can engage the artworks through subtle linkages in the color plates, which introduce related works in black and white. According to Atkinson, the artworks in this catalogue, many of them newly photographed, “are a playground for the mind.”



The Henry Luce Foundation and the Windgate Charitable Foundation generously support the reinstallation of the Renwick’s permanent collection.

Online Gallery

Lino Tagliapietra, Mandara, 2005, glass, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by the American Art Forum, 2011.6, © 2005, Lino Tagliapietra, Inc.
Not on view
Dan Webb, Cut, Flamed, Spalted, 2013, maple, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Decorative Arts and Crafts Endowment, the Richard T. Evans Fund, and the Renwick Acquisitions Fund, 2015.10, © 2013, Dan Webb
Cut, Flamed, Spalted
Not on view
Erik Demaine, Martin Demaine, Green Balance, 2011, Mi-Teintes watercolor paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artists in honor of the fortieth anniversary of the Renwick Gallery, 2011.54.3, © 2011, Erik and Martin Demaine
Green Balance
Mi-Teintes watercolor paper
Not on view
Sebastian Martorana, Impressions, 2008, marble, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Patricia A. Young in honor of the fortieth anniversary of the Renwick Gallery and the thirtieth anniversary of the James Renwick Alliance, 2012.20, © 2008, Sebastian Martorana
Not on view
Wendell Castle, Ghost Clock, 1985, bleached Honduras mahogany, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program, 1989.68, © 1985, Wendell Castle
Ghost Clock
bleached Honduras mahogany
Not on view
Joan Parcher, Graphite Pendulum-Pendant, 1994, graphite, sterling silver, and stainless steel, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Renwick Acquisitions Fund, 1995.12
Graphite Pendulum-Pendant
graphite, sterling silver, and stainless steel
Not on view
Sam Maloof, Low-Back Side Chair, 1995, ziricote and ebony, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Alfreda and Sam Maloof in honor of Michael W. Monroe, curator-in-charge, Renwick Gallery (1986-1995), 1995.29, © 1995, Sam Maloof
Low-Back Side Chair
ziricote and ebony
Not on view
Eric Serritella, Charred Split Birch Log Teapot, 2013, stoneware, stains, and oxides, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Howard Kottler Endowment for Ceramic Art, 2014.30A-B, © 2013, Eric Serritella
Charred Split Birch Log Teapot
stoneware, stains, and oxides
Not on view
John Grade, Shoal (Bone Shoal Sonance), 2003, limba and shedua, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Driek and Michael Zirinsky in honor of Sam and Elizabeth Davidson, 2015.28.2, © John Grade
Shoal (Bone Shoal Sonance)
limba and shedua
Not on view
Wendy Maruyama, Shadow of Amboseli, 2016, jelutong, milk paint, waxed linen thread, and finish, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Penland School of Crafts through contributions made by Fleur Bresler, the Cousins Foundation, Tom Oreck, Kaola and Frank Phoenix, Susan Parker Martin and Alan Belzer, Barbara McFadyen and Douglass Phillips, Diane Charnov, Lee Rocamora, John A. Thompson, Jr., members of the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, and the Collectors of Wood Art, 2016.54, © 2023, Wendy Maruyama
Shadow of Amboseli
jelutong, milk paint, waxed linen thread, and finish
Not on view
Kathryn Clark, Washington, D.C. Foreclosure Quilt, 2015, linen, cotton, and recycled thread, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Stephen D. Thurston Memorial Fund, 2015.40, © 2015, Kathryn Clark
Washington, D.C. Foreclosure Quilt
linen, cotton, and recycled thread
Not on view
Anni Albers, Ancient Writing, 1936, cotton and rayon, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Young, 1984.150
Ancient Writing
cotton and rayon
Not on view


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Wendell Castle
born Emporia, KS 1932-died Scottsville, NY 2018

Born in Emporia, Kansas, Wendell Castle earned a B.F.A. degree in sculpture in 1958 and an M.F.A. in industrial design in 1961 at the University of Kansas.

John Grade
born Minneapolis, MN 1970
Karen LaMonte
born New York City 1967
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Albert Paley
born Philadelphia, PA 1944

Albert Paley earned B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees at Tyler School of Art, Temple University, in 1966 and 1969 respectively.

Judith Schaechter
born Gainesville, FL 1961
Akio Takamori
Japanese born Nobeoka, Japan 1950-died Seattle, WA 2017
Lenore Tawney
born Lorain, OH 1907-died New York City 2007

In 1954 Lenore Tawney abandoned sculpture for weaving and in the process, transformed the ancient craft of the weaver into a new vocation—fiber art.

Marie Watt
born Seattle, WA 1967