The Society for Contemporary Craft exhibition 5 Contemporary Masters features work by artists working in traditional craft mediums who can trace their careers back, in some cases almost 40 years, to the SCC's formative years.
SCC founder Elizabeth Rockwell Raphael recognized that artists working in craft mediums were expanding the notion of contemporary art, yet had limited exhibition opportunities. In 1971, she opened The Store, in Verona, with an admirable goal: to bring the work of craft artists to a larger audience. Fifteen years later, The Store moved to the Strip District and became the SCC -- one of a handful of institutions in the U.S. dedicated solely to contemporary craft.
5 Contemporary Masters presents both recent and older work by Jonathan Bonner, Marek Cecula, John Cederquist, Steven Maslach and Lenore Tawney, all of whom were represented by Raphael at The Store.
The striking "Triple A," a life-sized kimono made entirely of wood is, likely, the first thing one sees when entering the gallery. Made by California-based John Cederquist, it is a stunning deep mahogany color and on it are white cartoon-like fighter jets (their markings recalling World War II-era Japanese Zeros) seen in diminishing perspective with red and orange explosions depicted beneath each. On closer examination, it is surprising to discover that "Triple A" is actually a cabinet. Another cabinet, titled "Kosode That Builds Itself," is on view: Depicted as decoration on this kosode-shaped form (a kosode is a type of kimono) are two Mickey Mouse arms and hands that appear to be using a wood-plane to "build themselves."
From a distance, the decorative figures on the works seem to have been simply drawn or painted on the wood. Instead, with the ultimate in craftsmanship, Cederquist has inlaid various types of wood to create the images, and used various inks in small amount to enhance some of the inlay.
Cederquist also exhibits a series of Japanese "side trays" that appear to be arranged with various Japanese food and accoutrements including fish, prawns, flowers, chopsticks and a bowl of noodles. Here, too, the images and decoration are inlaid with various types of wood. But what makes these trays extraordinary is that Cederquist has used anamorphic perspective, so that the trays, although two-dimensional, appear 3-D when seen at the correct angle.
Also in this exhibition are the lovely glass sculptures of Steve Maslach. Four boat-shaped slabs of solid glass were crafted using a mold, and once the glass was annealed, they were "torch finessed" to add detail. The results are displayed to the best advantage in "Midnight/Gold Long Boat" (2008), a brilliant blue, boat-shaped slab with blue swirls within the glass and a greenish tint to the bottom that appears much like seaweed seen through flowing water.
Jonathan Bonner, based in Rhode Island, presents video, sculpture and prints with conceptual leanings. New York-based Marek Cecula exhibits ceramics that deconstruct traditional, mass-produced tableware. And mixed-media sculptures by Lenore Tawney -- a New York-based artist who was integral to the development of fiber arts, and who died in 2007, at the age of 100 -- round out this interesting look at artists whose résumés date to the beginnings of SCC.
5 Contemporary Masters continues through Sept. 13. Society for Contemporary Craft, 2100 Smallman St., Strip District. 412-261-7003 or www.contemporarycraft.org