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Treasure Trove

RACINE — Open through Aug. 4 at the Racine Art Museum, 441 Main St., “Treasure Trove: Establishing Jewelry and Metals Archives at RAM” features select archive artists from RAM’s collection who primarily create jewelry and metalwork.

In 2013, RAM was identified as having the largest contemporary craft collection in the country. That accomplishment is thanks to the commitment of donors — private collectors and artists primarily — who see RAM as the definitive lasting home for the artwork they have amassed and/or created.

Also unique to RAM’s collection are concentrations of multiple works by particular artists. While some institutions choose to limit their acquisitions to one or two examples per artist, RAM is often interested in representing a large cross-section of a career or body of work. This extends to the development of archives that may even include studio furniture, correspondence, books, and other materials that document and outline professional paths and achievements.

RAM has archive holdings of large-scale works — such as ceramics by Toshiko Takaezu and mixed media two-and three-dimensional work by Margaret Ponce Israel. For very practical reasons, it is easier to manage and maintain those comprised of smaller-scale pieces, like jewelry and metalwork. The establishment of an archive is not strictly formulaic. RAM staff could work directly with an artist — or an artist’s estate representative — who intends to donate a large body of work and related materials. Alternately, a large quantity of work by a single artist that has been amassed from various sources may be designated as an archive.

Treasure Trove focuses on select archive artists who primarily create jewelry and metalwork, highlighting their presence with a sampling from RAM’s holdings.

Artists whose works are featured include: Dan Adams (with Cynthia Toops), Carolyn Morris Bach, Kat Cole, Michael Croft, Ben J. Cunningham, Robert W. Ebendorf, Sandra Enterline, Arline Fisch, Steven Ford and David Forlano, Elsa Freund, Terri Gelenian-Wood, Danielle Gori-Montanelli, John J. Grant (with Robert W. Ebendorf), Tina Fung Holder, Tory Hughes, Ken Loeber, Dona Look (with Ken Loeber), Eleanor Moty, Harold O’Connor, Ivy Ross (with Robert W. Ebendorf), Antonia Schwed, Joyce Scott, Kiff Slemmons, Mary Tingley, Cynthia Toops, Pier Voulkos, Elise Winters, and Marci Zelmanoff. Reflecting the richness of RAM’s holdings in this area, the works of several of these artists are also featured in other exhibitions on view at this time.

This exhibition, with more than 120 pieces on display, not only offers highlights from RAM artists collected in-depth, but also reflects the variety of approaches toward contemporary art jewelry and small-scale metals. With dates ranging from the 1950s to present day, these works present a snapshot of studio craft trends in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. While precious metals are used — non-precious materials such as found objects, woven wire, and polymer — are also in abundance.

The featured artists are interested in exploring personal, social and cultural themes. They also play with notions of wearability, exploring whether some adornments even need to be, or can be, worn. In addition to being collected by RAM and featured in numerous exhibitions over the years, these artists create work that is found in other significant collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The work of the following select artists underscores some of the broad themes represented in Treasure Trove:

  • Utilizing enamel, as well as precious metals, pattern-welded steel, and non-precious materials like acrylic, artist Michael Croft explores form, pattern, and functionality, with his exquisitely rendered jewelry and cutting tools.
  • Interested in trying to “create awareness of personal adornment that exceeds the restrictive boundaries of traditional Western materials and techniques,” Wisconsinite Tina Fung Holder uses everyday items, such as safety pins and paperclips, to create jewelry as well as baskets.
  • Racine native Terri Gelenian-Wood (1955-2006) is best known for tableware that combines high polish sterling silver with intensely colored plastics, such as Corian or Formica. RAM now has an extensive archive of over 40 works, including multi-piece flatware sets, silver and gemstone brooches, and plastic laminate hair accessories.
  • Adept at combining materials such as gold, lapis lazuli and spectrolite, and making ancient, laborious metalsmithing techniques relevant in a contemporary context, Harold O’Connor creates jewelry that embraces contrasts in texture and patterns while still evoking the landscape.

Racine Art Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $7 and $5 for youth ages 12-18, full-time students and seniors age 62 and older. There is no charge for children ages 11 and younger. For more information, call 262-638-8300.

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