"History in the Making: Renwick Craft Invitational 2011" opened March 25 and will run through July 31 at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian American Art Museum's branch for craft and decorative arts.
The exhibition will feature a total of 70 works by master artisans of various mediums, including furniture maker Matthias Pliessnig, Cliff Lee (ceramics), Judith Schaechter (glass) and Ubaldo Vitali (silversmith).
Pliessnig works in Philadelphia and uses traditional boatbuilding techniques to construct his unique furniture. He and the other artists were chosen by Nicholas R. Bell, curator at the museum's Renwick Gallery; Ulysses Dietz, senior curator and curator of decorative arts at The Newark Museum in New Jersey; and Andrew Wagner, editor-in-chief of ReadyMade magazine. Bell is the curator of the exhibition.
Bell says Pliessnig's work blurs the lines between design, craft, sculpture and engineering.
"His organic forms are designed with 3-D modeling software and then assembled from steam-bent strips of white oak, melding ancient and futuristic technologies in the pursuit of comfort. A work in the exhibition, Rivulet (2009), has more than 7,000 points of contact, each joint locked with a tiny bamboo peg. Pliessnig has reinvigorated contemporary American furniture practice through his unexpected approach to design and dedication to craftsmanship."
He commends Vitali, Lee, Schaechter and Pliessnig on how they all use varied histories of craftsmanship and creative expression as points of departure in the pursuit of original art.
"Drawing from diverse cultural histories and experiences, these artists explore the depth of the creative wellspring for contemporary craft in the United States. The objects in the exhibition reveal how the most dedicated and skilled individuals produce works of uncommon splendor."
This exhibition is the fifth in the museum's biennial series, intended to celebrate artists deserving of wider national recognition.
Jon Brooks' exhibit
"Jon Brooks: A Collaboration with Nature," will feature 40 works by this nationally recognized New Hampshire furniture maker. The exhibition opened March 19 and runs through June 12 at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, N.H.
On April 3, Brooks will participate in a discussion about how he became a leading figure in the American studio furniture movement. An audio tour will be offered during the exhibition, which can be downloaded from the museum's website.
Renwick Gallery, 1661 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. at 17th St., Washington, DC 20006. Tel: 202-633-7970. http://americanart.si.edu/renwick
Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash St., Manchester, NH 03104. Tel: 603-669-6144. www. currier.org
This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue.