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The Contemporary Jewish Museum exhibits works by Allison Smith
Allison Smith, Ghost Photography, (Skansen Revisited) 1891–1981 (detail), 2015. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Marie Andersson. In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art—Allison Smith and Christina Zetterlund. On view July 20, 2017–July 3, 2018 at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Dialogue has always been an integral part of learning in traditional Jewish contexts. The Talmud states, “Just as in the case of iron, when one implement sharpens another, so too do two scholars sharpen each other.”

The Contemporary Jewish Museum repurposes the centuries-old practice of havruta—the study of religious texts by people in pairs—for the contemporary art community. An ongoing exhibition series, In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art, brings individual Bay Area artists together with a scholar, scientist, writer, or other professional of his or her choice for a ten-week fellowship in creativity. The resulting collaborations are presented in The Museum’s Sala Webb Education Center.

The current installation features the work of artist Allison Smith in collaboration with Christina Zetterlund, a craft and design historian and theoretician based at the Konstfack in Sweden.

Smith has created a number of projects that consider traditional craft and historical reenactments in the context of the United States. Smith first met Zetterlund during her recent residency in Stockholm and they discovered a shared interest in the politics of handcraft and its use in both progressive and conservative social movements. Through a series of emails, shared texts, Skype sessions, and in-person visits in Stockholm and San Francisco, their exchanges have explored the role of traditional craft in constructions of nationalism and processes of colonization, and have specifically delved into the writings and teachings of the Jewish Swedish educator, Otto Salomon (1849–1907; born in Gothenburg, Sweden), whose work focused on the concept of sljd (pronounced sloyd), a term which can be defined as “craft” or manual “skill.”

The new work created for this exhibition, titled Models for a System, will be presented in an installation that plays with the conventions of period rooms and living history museums.

Smith has exhibited her work nationally and internationally since 1995. She has produced over twenty-five solo exhibitions, installations, performances, and artist-led participatory projects for venues such as SFMoMA, Public Art Fund, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, The Arts Club of Chicago, among many others. Smith has exhibited her work in group exhibitions at galleries and museums including MoMA P.S.1; Palais de Tokyo; the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art; Mass MoCA; The Andy Warhol Museum; and the Tang Museum. She was, until recently, Associate Professor and Chair of the Sculpture Program at California College of the Arts and is now Associate Professor of Art at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Art in Pittsburgh.

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