Works by the four artists in this year's exhibition History in the Making. Counter clockwise from upper left, works by Cliff Lee, Ubaldo Vitali, Judith Schaechter, and Matthias Pliessnig.
The Renwick Craft Invitational began eleven years ago, making the 2011 event, number five. If an exhibition can have a theme song, this year's Invitational, History in the Making would be, "Everything Old is New Again." Here, four artists display dazzling skill in creating works that take contemporary twists (and risks) on traditional arts. It's that combination of the fresh and the familiar that combines to create the "ah-ha" moment for the viewer, and there are many such moments throughout.
One thing that links all the artists for me, in addition to their forward/backwards looking, is the beauty of the created surface. Ubaldo Vitali's silver glows and gives each piece a sense of poetry, while Cliff Lee's ceramics would make any emperor jealous, especially when they learn that he has unlocked the mystery behind traditional glazes. Matthias Pliessnig's wood furniture feels inviting and monumental at the same time, while Judith Schaechter's riff on stained glass imbues the ordinary with the spectacular.
Over the course of the exhibition, we'll be taking a closer look at each artist, focusing on one of their objects that are on display. In the meantime, a visit to the Renwick would be in order as the works are not only beautiful in themselves, but the exhibition design and lighting makes the entire experience resonate.
See additional artworks from each of these artists in our exhibition slide show. History in the Making: Renwick Craft Invitational 2011 is open until July 31.
- Renwick Gallery, Crafts, American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum