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First museum exhibition to examine rich interplay of jewelry and photography opens
Fritz Maierhofer, Portrait of the Artist (bracelet), 1971. Analog photograph, acrylic, silver. Collection of the artist. Photo: Fritz Maierhofer.

NEW YORK, NY.- On view at the Museum of Arts and Design from May 13 to September 14, 2014, Multiple Exposures: Jewelry and Photography is the first museum exhibition to examine how contemporary jewelry artists are using photography to explore issues central to contemporary experience, including changing views of beauty and the human body; social, political, and cultural issues; memory and desire; and the relationship of jewelry to society and personal identity.

Today’s revolution in image creation, manipulation, and transmission has served as a catalyst for the artists featured in Multiple Exposures to take a serious look at the pictures in our lives—the Daguerreotypes, tintypes, and Kodachromes we have inherited from earlier times, as well as the digital images currently streaming from our cameras, computers, and smart phones. Focusing on contemporary works and featuring 170 objects, Multiple Exposures not only provides historical context for this evolving 200-year-old relationship, but also delves into recent developments in contemporary photo-jewelry through cutting-edge videos and installations.

More than 80 renowned artists from over 20 countries are represented in the exhibition, including Gijs Bakker, Wafaa Bilal, Mari Ishikawa, Jiro Kamata, Sooyeon Kim, Otto Künzli, Iris Nieuwenburg, Kara Ross, Gabriela Sánchez y Sánchez de la Barquera, Bernhard Schobinger, Bettina Speckner, Joyce Scott, Kiff Slemmons, Andy Warhol, and Noa Zilberman.

"Multiple Exposures: Jewelry and Photography offers the first rigorous survey and exploration of the deep and multifaceted relationship between these two mediums," says Glenn Adamson, MAD’s Nanette L. Laitman Director. "The exhibition gives viewers the opportunity to engage with contemporary artists who push the boundaries of one field using the other, reinvigorating familiar forms while inventing new ones."

“In spite of their distinct histories and traits, or perhaps because of them, the fusion of these two mediums has resulted in a potent synergy that has reshaped jewelry,” observes Ilse-Neuman. “Multiple Exposures: Jewelry and Photography captures the artistic strength embodied in this dynamic combination of object and image.”

The exhibition is loosely organized around the following thematic threads: Identity and Representation, in which artists push the boundaries of portrait jewelry using images of family and friends, the celebrated and notorious, as well as anonymous individuals whose histories have been lost in time; The Body, featuring the changing concepts of beauty and imperfection of the human form as well as its interior; Landscape, architecture and their symbolic content; Appropriation, in which artists hijack and transform iconic imagery from the fine arts and popular culture as a way to comment on contemporary concerns; Tributes to cameras and photographic paraphernalia, featuring the imaginative and unexpectedly wearable pieces of jewelry created from dismantled camera components; and finally Jewelry Beyond the Object—its social and cultural significance beyond function and conventions—expressed through cutting-edge videos and photographs.

Context for the contemporary pieces in the exhibition is provided by 19th-century photo-jewelry featuring daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes, as well as trench jewelry from the First and Second World Wars, many exhibited for the first time.

Highlights from the exhibition include:

• Gijs Bakker’s transformation of a Bruce Weber photograph of an athletic male nude pouring a bucket of water over his back into his sensuous and luxurious Waterman brooch (1991) by replacing the water droplets with diamonds, encasing the image in PVC, and attaching a pin.

• Jiro Kamata believes old lenses contain the history of all that has passed through them, and his Arboresque brooch (2010) blends colorfully painted lenses with lyrical forms to conjure rich associations with time, spirit, and mortality.

• In Piece X (2011), Gabriela Sánchez y Sánchez de la Barquera subverts the refined aesthetics of cameos by using the form to frame a close-up photograph of body parts her friend considers to be unattractive and embarrassing.

• Lauren Kalman’s videos examine the grotesque aspects of body ornamentation. As her Tongue Gilding (2009) video progresses, what initially appears to be beautiful gilding can be seen as an instrument of torture as the tongue trembles and drips saliva in near asphyxiation.

• Otto Künzli, one of the most provocative and influential jewelry artists of the last 40 years, experimented with the essential qualities of jewelry in a photo booth in Munich’s central train station. His groundbreaking Automatenfotos (1976) document the process, as he tries out every imaginable combination of tape, wires, laces, and wooden rods on his own torso. The simple black-and-white photo strips he used to record his ideas set contemporary jewelry on a revolutionary path.

• Bettina Speckner, one of the leading contemporary photo-jewelry artists, often obscures the faces in 19th-century portrait ferrotypes to transport the subjects into the existential ambiguity of the 21st century. In Untitled (2004), she uses her own bucolic landscape photographs and a complex photo-enameling technique to create a familiar pastoral atmosphere, but one devoid of nostalgia and decidedly of our time.

• Sooyeon Kim’s beautifully fragile neckpiece House on Benefit Street (2010) deconstructs a beloved house in Providence, Rhode Island, reflecting on Walter Benjamin’s assertion that “photographs can act as a window on the architecture they depict.”

• In Hindsight (1997), Kiff Slemmons frames eyes with a lorgnette made from a clock-hand, creating a contemporary reinterpretation of earlier sentimental “lover’s eyes” miniatures, in a collage that unifies the juxtaposed images to form the face of the brooch.

• Bernhard Schobinger retrieved discarded photographs from the rubbish for his Zerrissene Photographie (1985) neckpiece, weaving the torn images together into a fragmented glimpse of a lost family history he re-invented.

• Ruudt Peters’ Ritual (2007) reworks a family tradition of protecting a child with a religious medallion by replacing that revered image with his own smiling face.

• In Minnesota Fats Commemorative Medal (1971), Don Tompkins depicts the notorious pool shark popularized in the film The Hustler, incorporating such symbolic attributes as a billiard ball rack and a cultured pearl cue ball.

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