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"Zero Karat: The Donna Schneier"

NEW YORK.- The American Craft Museum will present Zero Karat: The Donna Schneier Gift to the American Craft Museum. The exhibition, featuring 80 works of jewelry in non-precious and alternative materials - including some pieces that are milestones in the development of post-war jewelry - will run through September 27. The works are part of a 1997 gift to the Museum from Donna Schneier, a prominent collector and private art dealer in Manhattan.

Beginning in the late 1960s, many avant-garde jewelers in Europe and the United States, asserted that ideas, creativity and inventiveness in jewelry design had greater value and relevance to a rapidly changing society than tradition and values of wealth and rarity associated with jewelry. Using such commonplace materials as aluminum and stainless steel to emphasize their liberation from past values, they created jewelry that stood on its own as art.

To shock the public and encourage wearers to associate the jewelry with ideas rather than net worth, these artists replaced precious metals and gemstones with such materials as aluminum, rubber, paper and plastic, often taken directly from industrial or domestic applications. Ranging from the subtle to the flamboyant, these works celebrate the body as they blur the boundaries between jewelry and clothing, often stretching wearability to its limits. Many of these works related to the contemporary interest in performance art and were highly provocative in their social content, demanding the strongest bond between jewelry maker and wearer.

Zero Karat contains such landmarks in the development of jewelry as Aluminum Bracelet, 1967, by Gijs Bakker, and Emmy van Leersum’s stainless steel Cylindrical Bracelet (1969-70); Armpiece 22 in 1, 1984, by Caroline Broadhead, in dyed and woven nylon monofilament; Ring For Two People, 1980, by Otto Künzli, in steel; Apartheid Collar, circa 1988, by Verena Sieber-Fuchs, made from commercially printed wrapping tissue and wire; Untitled neckpiece; l981, by Lam de Wolf, in cane, colored cloth strips and ribbons; and Voyager neckpiece, l984-85, by David Watkins, in neoprene-coated wood.

Also featured are works by noted American jewelers, including Robert Ebendorf, Arlene Fisch, Marjorie Schick and Lisa Gralnick, who contributed their own sensibility to the jewelry revolution/evolution in the United States.

"We are indebted to Donna Schneier for donating these important works to the Museum’s permanent collection," says Holly Hotchner, Director of the American Craft Museum. "This exhibition represents a superb example of the public benefit that results from a strong relationship between museum and collector. Donna is one of those rare collectors whose prescience and connoisseurship crucially influence the directions in which jewelry develops. We are grateful for her role and her support of the American Craft Museum."

Donna Schneier says of her collection, "Although made to adorn the body, these works were an aesthetic tour-de-force, made for the reasons art is made: to question, assert, celebrate and record. These artists made it clear that it was acceptable to wear art."

Curator Ursula Ilse-Neuman of the American Craft Museum, and organizer of the exhibition, explains, "Whether they used rubber or plastic, aluminum or paper, these remarkable men and women created well designed, original and elegantly finished works that epitomize preciousness without an ounce of gold or a carat of diamonds. Their explorations questioned the very nature of jewelry, expanding its boundaries and opening avenues that continue to make contemporary jewelry visually and conceptually exciting."

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