Shows to See: August/September 2012

Shows to See: August/September 2012

View the complete shows and events calendar at

CA / Los Angeles
Craft and Folk Art Museum
Ehren Tool: Production or Destruction
to Sep. 9
Ehren Tool’s handmade ceramic cups are embellished with often violent imagery, reflecting his service as a Marine in the first Gulf War. One thousand ceramic cups are on view, arranged in military units – 13 cups in a squad, 55 in a platoon, and 225 in a company. Soldiers’ photos, propaganda, war porn, bombs, guns, and medals adorn the cups, linking the utilitarian, everyday objects to more recent events, such as the Occupy movement and soaring suicide rates among veterans. Tool highlights the cognitive disconnect between military and civilian cultures.

CA / Los Angeles
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective
Sep. 16 – Jan. 6, 2013
Masterful sculptor Ken Price, who died in February, played a monumental role in elevating clay in the contemporary art world. This exhibition, which took shape while Price was still alive, surveys work from his entire career. Designed by renowned architect and Price’s close friend Frank Gehry, the show is slated to travel to Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013.

MI / Bloomfield Hills
Cranbrook Art Museum
George Nelson: Architect/Writer/Designer/Teacher
to Oct. 14
Seminal designer George Nelson played a huge role in the evolution of the American office as design director for the Herman Miller furniture firm, fostering company relationships with contemporaries such as Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard, and Isamu Noguchi, in addition to his own design contributions. Nelson’s work is instantly recognizable, and this first comprehensive retrospective of his career, organized by the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, puts the many pursuits of a deeply creative man on display, with more than 120 objects – including iconic chairs, benches, desks, and the Marshmallow sofa – alongside drawings, photographs, models, and short films.

MN / Minneapolis
Northern Clay Center
American Pottery Festival
Sep. 7 – 9
The 14th annual American Pottery Festival features an exhibition and sale of work from top ceramic artists, including Warren MacKenzie, Meredith Host, Alex Matisse, and Chandra DeBuse. Workshops and lectures for artists and appreciators take place throughout the weekend, along with a Friday-night preview party and Saturday-night barbecue. Two Collector Adventures are also slated, with trips to local collectors’ homes, artist studios, and the Weisman Art Museum, along with opportunities to buy work directly from the artists.

NC / Charlotte
Mint Museum
Against the Grain: Wood in Contemporary Art and Craft
to Jan. 6, 2013
Organized by the Museum of Arts and Design and debuting at the Mint, this traveling exhibition features work in wood created since 2000. Turned work by Mark Lindquist, a rocking chair by Wendell Castle, and trompe l’oeil by Alison Elizabeth Taylor and Silas Kopf are just a few highlights.

NM / Santa Fe
La Fonda Hotel
New World: Timeless Visions
Sep. 17 – 21
This biennial gathering of the International Academy of Ceramics is being held in the United States for only the second time since its inception in 1952. The five-day event offers panels and lectures – featuring such luminaries as collector/scholar Helen Drutt English, sociologist Richard Sennett, curator Peter Held, and artists Alleghany Meadows and Andy Brayman – and an IAC members exhibition at the New Mexico Museum of Art.

NY / Corning
Corning Museum of Glass
Making Ideas: Experiments in Design at GlassLab
to Jan. 6, 2013
The Corning Museum of Glass’ GlassLab program pairs master glassmakers with makers from outside the medium. “Making Ideas” features the results of these collaborations, including prototypes, glassblowing videos, and sketches from nearly 50 international designers from all backgrounds and mediums, including quintessential modernist designer Massimo Vignelli and Francisco Costa, designer for the Calvin Klein fashion house.

NY / East Hampton
Longhouse Reserve
Accumulations: Now
to Oct. 6
Pioneering fiber artist and collector Jack Lenor Larsen handpicked 500 works from the past 100 years for this exhibition at Longhouse Reserve. Furniture by John Houshmand and Judy Kensley McKie, fiber art by Anni Albers, and clay work by Anne Hirondelle are among the many exemplary creations on display.

TN / Memphis
Metal Museum
Master Metalsmith: Eleanor Moty
Sep. 7 – Dec. 2
Eleanor Moty’s early work brought photo-etching to the field of metalsmithing. Since that time, she’s created exquisite modernist jewelry while teaching for more than three decades at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This retrospective showcases her career, from 1969’s Portrait hand mirror (and 1970’s Reflected Schoolhouse brooch, above) to the Constellation brooch, made in 2010.

NY / New York
Museum of Arts and Design
Space-Light-Structure: The Jewelry of Margaret De Patta
to Sep. 23

Jewelry artist Margaret De Patta (1903-1964) was a product of her time – influenced by the Bauhaus school, constructivism, and democratic ideals. She was also ahead of her time, longing to make sophisticated jewelry for the general public. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make the business model work. Her marriage, finances, and spirit flagging, De Patta took her own life in her early 60s.

She remains influential among jewelry makers today, says MAD curator Ursula Ilse-Neuman, who planned this De Patta retrospective along with Julie Muñiz of the Oakland Museum of California, where the show opened earlier this year. We asked Ilse-Neuman about the artist and the show.

How did the Margaret De Patta exhibition come about?
The outstanding examples of De Patta’s jewelry in MAD’s collection were a constant reminder that this pioneering modernist’s jewelry had been neglected. The work expresses the historical intersection of the German Bauhaus and American design.

De Patta’s jewelry has been called “wearable sculpture” and “a radical departure from jewelry as body ornament.” What made it so different from other jewelry in the first half of the 20th century?
Before De Patta, jewelry was either a costly luxury item, a relatively unimaginative craft object, or a mass-produced piece with conventional forms and stone settings that looked back to Victorian and earlier designs. Unlike other midcentury American jewelers, De Patta applied the intellectual approach of an architect to her designs, basing them on constructivist principles, employing abstract designs, and viewing her art as linked to social change. She challenged the wearer to see value in jewelry based on innovative design rather than on the raw value of materials or craftsmanship alone.

De Patta felt a social responsibility to make jewelry for the largest number of people possible. Yet the postwar public thought her production work was too expensive. Do you think her work would have found an audience today?
Definitely. We live in an eclectic period with a universal acceptance of concepts, from the abstract to the political, and of materials, from the precious to found objects and even trash. De Patta would have been at home at Munich’s annual Jewelry Week, known as Schmuck, which celebrates jewelers as masters of modernism. And she would undoubtedly be successful financially as well. She might also have pursued a career in architecture, which was not open to women in the 1920s. ~Monica Moses