Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery

March 29, 2019 - Ongoing

Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW)
Untitled - 2016.11 - 124929

Debra Baxter, Devil Horns Crystal Brass Knuckles (Lefty), 2015, quartz crystal and sterling silver, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Connections is the Renwick Gallery’s dynamic ongoing permanent collection presentation, featuring more than 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. The 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, The Lloyd Herman Acting Curator-in-Charge

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 installation 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 1930s through today and span numerous media. New acquisitions such as Mary Jackson’s Vase with Handle, Josh Simpson’s Megaplanet, and Akio Takamori’s Green Mountain and Ochre Landscape 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 Kim Schmahmann’s Bureau of Bureaucracy return to view.

Credit

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