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"40 under 40: Craft Futures" at the Smithsonian American Art Museum spotlights next generation in craft
Uhuru (Jason Horvath & Bill Hilgendorf), Cyclone Lounger, 2011, Reclaimed Coney Island boardwalk (Ipe) with laser cut powder coated steel base, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Bill Higendorf and Jason Horvath in memory of Cynthia Bricker Hilgendorf, Gift of Fern Bleckner in celebration of Etta B. Brown’s 95th birthday, and Gift of Shirley Jacobs in honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Renwick Gallery, photo by Uhuru Design.
WASHINGTON, DC.- “40 under 40: Craft Futures” features the innovative work of 40 artists born since 1972, the year the Renwick Gallery was established as the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s branch for craft and decorative arts. “40 under 40” investigates evolving notions of craft within traditional media such as ceramics and metalwork, as well as in fields as varied as sculpture, industrial design, installation art, fashion design, sustainable manufacturing and mathematics. The exhibition opens July 20 at the Renwick Gallery and closes Feb. 3, 2013.

All of the artworks selected for display in the exhibition were created since Sept. 11, 2001. This new work reflects the changed world that exists today, which poses new challenges and considerations for artists. These 40 artists are united by philosophies for living differently in modern society with an emphasis on sustainability, a return to valuing the hand-made and what it means to live in a state of persistent conflict and unease. Nicholas R. Bell, The Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator of American Craft and Decorative Art at the Renwick Gallery, organized the exhibition.

“When the Renwick Gallery opened in 1972, it introduced a new generation of artists to the American public,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “I am excited that we are poised now to introduce to the museum’s community these 40 young artists who will inspire a new generation.”

The 40 artists featured in the exhibition are: Vivian Beer, Melanie Bilenker, Jeffrey Clancy, Dave Cole, Cristina Córdova, Gabriel Craig, Jennifer Crupi, Erik Demaine, Joshua DeMonte, Brian Dettmer, Nick Dong, Joseph Foster Ellis, Jeff Garner, Theaster Gates, Sabrina Gschwandtner, Jenny Hart, Sergey Jivetin, Lauren Kalman, Lara Knutson, Stephanie Liner, Marc Maiorana, Sebastian Martorana, Christy Matson, Cat Mazza, Daniel Michalik, Matt Moulthrop, Christy Oates, Olek, Andy Paiko, Mia Pearlman, L.J. Roberts, Laurel Roth, Shawn Smith, Jen Stark, Matthew Szösz, Uhuru (Jason Horvath and William Hilgendorf), Jamin Uticone, Anna Von Mertens, Stacey Lee Webber and Bohyun Yoon.

“We are seeing the beginning of a new cycle in contemporary craft, one in which the urgency of the idea is paramount,” said Bell. “The blurring of disciplinary lines within craft is a trademark of 21st-century artists; these 40 were selected to show the most engaging work of their generation and to highlight newly prevalent trends in the field.”

In 2010, Bell reviewed work by 2,000 artists from across the United States. Scouring galleries, master’s of fine arts programs, fairs, blogs and colleague recommendations, he chose artists whose work represents a new direction in craft. None of the artists selected has ever shown work at the Smithsonian Institution, and for most, Washington, D.C., is a new stage. The museum hopes to acquire works by every artist featured in the exhibition to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Renwick Gallery and strengthen its collection for the future. Acquisitions will be partially funded by donations from the public, who will be credited in the exhibition and on the museum’s website.

Two works in the exhibition can be engaged directly by a visitor—Matson’s “Sonic Structure II” and Dong’s “Enlightenment Room.” Other works by Craig, Liner, Olek and Paiko encourage interacting with the artist or someone affiliated with the artwork on occasion.



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