The Good Making of Good Things

The Good Making of Good Things

Thomas Lynn, Chair with Back

Thomas Lynn, Chair with Back, 1968, aluminum, 4.75 x 2 x 3 ft.

Courtesy of the Minnesota Museum of American Art

MN / St. Paul
Minnesota Museum of American Art
"The Good Making of Good Things: Craft Horizons Magazine 1941 – 1979
Co-presented with the American Craft Council
March 7 – May 12

The moment curator Christopher Atkins heard about the exhibition “The Good Making of Good Things: Craft Horizons Magazine 1941–1979,” he knew the Minnesota Museum of American Art would present its own version.

The show, first mounted at the Center for Craft, Creativity & Design in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2017, places works by artists featured in Craft Horizons among images and text from its pages. The precursor of this magazine (it was renamed American Craft in 1979), Craft Horizons was, in its time, the information source for the artists, scholars, and enthusiasts in the burgeoning field of studio craft. From its start as a simple newsletter, it grew into a force that helped shape and connect the movement it documented.

Atkins saw the show as the ideal opportunity to shine a light on some of the lesser-known treasures in the nearly 5,000-piece permanent collection at “the M,” which reopened in December after a year of construction.

“People who know us certainly have their favorites, but what they may not know is that the M also has this great collection of 20th-century American craft,” he says. Among the M’s holdings are pieces by artists such as Albert Paley, Olaf Skoogfors, Gertrud and Otto Natzler, Warren and Alix MacKenzie, and Peter Voulkos. Through objects from the collection, “we could show how the M was integral to the American craft movement” and partner with the American Craft Council to present our shared histories, he says.

Atkins worked with guest curators Elizabeth Essner, Lily Kane, and Meaghan Roddy, who put together the original exhibition. They were delighted to find that the M’s collection houses many works discussed in Craft Horizons. “I kept saying to them, ‘Yup, we have that … and that. That, too. Sure, we can pull that piece out for you,’ ” Atkins says. They also sent him jewelry collector and craft advocate Helen Drutt English’s review of the M’s 1970 exhibition “Goldsmith ’70.” He was able to track down many pieces that were on view, and “The Good Making of Good Things” will include a condensed version of the show. When Drutt English visited the Twin Cities in early October, “we invited her over to storage to see some of the pieces she wrote about.”

Also on display are clay pieces by artists such as Win Ng and Toshiko Takaezu.

One item on view illustrates Craft Horizon’s role as a hub for a nascent, geographically scattered community in a pre-internet era: a Rolodex that belonged to Rose Slivka, Craft Horizons editor in chief from 1959 to ’79. Its cards are packed with the addresses and phone numbers of luminaries such as Louise Bourgeois.

“It was easy to imagine Rose flipping through all of these names, calling them up to talk about an exhibition or article,” Atkins says. “Like the magazine, the Rolodex is a microcosm of a much larger network of people who are connected to this larger movement.”