Several weeks ago I took the time while in New York to go to the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) to see the CRAFTING MODERNISM exhibit. The museum, formerly the Museum of Contemporary Crafts (MCC) and later the American Craft Museum (ACM) still retains its original vision by creating exhibits to examine and celebrate American craft in the 20th century. It charts the bold new direction in craft media from the postwar period through the mid 60′s, showing a range of works from the strictly functional but studio made, to beautiful objects integrated into the factory with the designer-craftsman serving as the bridge between hand and machine.

What makes this exhibition so special is that in our technological age the handmade object has become an important expression of individuality. It is also a tribute to the innumerable galleries, journals, conferences and fairs that promoted the studio craft movement; the artists who were willing to develop new techniques with their chosen materials and take advantage of technical advancements. It also acknowledges a group of individuals with vision and energy to support and promote these craftspeople. The influence of craftspeople spread with their participation in international exhibitions with pieces that went outside of traditional boundaries to show work of great originality and energy.

Many of the earliest craftspeople brought a modernist perspective to their art that was shaped by the Bauhaus; for example Joseph and Anni Albers worked to unify art, craft and industry. There was a fine group of artists from Denmark working in metals and ceramics. A crafts lifestyle attracted a small group who wanted self employment and small scale production as a means to being self sufficient. They could work independently or collaboratively, teach, or team with industry where the “designer-craftsman” could create objects with mass production capabilities.

Today the studio craft movement is a vital part of the world art scene. This exhibit and the MAD celebrate artists who have taken their materials to new frontiers. All of the objects are beautifully staged and many of the pieces are awe inspiring. I have included pictures of a few of my favorites, some that are familiar to all of us.


Barbara Sallick

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