BROOKLYN, NY.- From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith honorS the gift of twenty pieces of silver and gold jewelry created by the Brooklyn-born modernist jeweler Arthur Smith (19171982), primarily from Charles Russell, Smiths companion and heir. This small exhibition is on view at the Brooklyn Museum through May 17, 2009.
The presentation of Art Smith jewelry is enhanced by archival material from the artists estate, including his working tools, the original shop sign designed by Smith, period photographs of models wearing his jewelry, preparatory sketches, and account books. Presented along with Smiths work are twenty-three pieces of modernist jewelry from the permanent collection by such artists as Elsa Freund, William Spratling, Frank Rebajes, Eva Eisler, Ed Weiner, Claire Falkenstein, Jung-Hoo Kim, and others. Inspired by surrealism, biomorphicism, and primitivism, Art Smiths jewelry is dynamic in its size and form. Although sometimes massive in scale, his jewelry remains lightweight and wearable due to his awareness of the female form. The jewelry dates from the late 1940s to the 1970s and includes his most famous pieces, such as a Patina necklace inspired by the mobiles of Alexander Calder; a Lava bracelet, or cuff, that extends over the entire lower arm in undulating and overlapping forms; and a massive ring with three semiprecious stones that stretches over three fingers.
Trained at Cooper Union, Art Smith, an African American, opened his first shop on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village in 1946. He later moved the business to 140 West Fourth Street, where it remained throughout his career. Not only one of the leading modernist jewelers of the mid-twentieth century, Smith was also an active supporter of black and gay civil rights, an avid jazz enthusiast, and a supporter of early black modern dance groups.