Throwing Stones in Glass Houses
Craft gets conceptual at the Museum of Contemporary Craft‘s (724 NW Davis) new show, Glass, by Melissa Dyne, possibly the largest readymade Portland’s ever seen. Opening today the installation consists of a single pane of glass and two photos of the facility in which it was produced. The idea is that the unframed pane will bend under its own weight (eventually? upon installation?) which we imagine will alter its reflective properties. We are prepared to love its minimal beauty the way we loathe florid, look-at-me decorative glass pieces. And please be site-specific* as promised (we cross our fingers). If we are lucky, we’ll never look at Big Pink and her ilk the same way again.
But this exhibition is really about the Museum’s efforts lead by curator Namita Gupta Wiggers to move the word “craft” beyond its traditional meanings: the handmade, the well made, work created using the materials of craft (clay, textile, wood, etceteras). Here’s where it gets fun and confusing. It will be interesting to look back on this period in the history of American craft to see how it all shakes out. Because as curators and institutions dealing with contemporary craft shake themselves loose from tradition, they enter realms which look a whole lot like their visual art institutional brethren (like say, a minimalist installation asking viewer to consider materiality and provenance of a sheet of industrially produced glass). So will craft institutions think and curate themselves out of a job? Will they retreat into historical considerations? Or will they simply add themselves to the number of contemporary art institutions? This doesn’t even begin to consider why we have situations like two artists working in same vein, one who considers herself a craft artist and shows in craft-based institutions and the other a visual artist, showing in visual art galleries and institutions. Hildur Bjarnadóttir, for example is worth an entire essay for highly evolved relationships to both visual art and craft.
For now, go see Glass, and let’s talk.
*One note, could we all please read Robert Irwin’s taxonomy in Being and Circumstance concerning site specificity (and degrees of same). The loosey-goosey use of the term is starting to wear.