Seattle is not a bastion of visual arts so the Bellevue Art Museum's exhibit Think Twice: New Latin American Jewelry is a rare treat. Note: this blog post is a mix of my notes and text from other sites and reviews. Please see end of post for places to go for more information). Also the BAM website has images of many of the pieces mentioned below.
The exhibit was divided into three sections:
History, Memory, Tradition
A Knack for Invention and Seeking
It included artists and artisans from South America, Mexico and the Caribbean whose innovation and imagination electrified the exhibit. Of special note is their use of jewelry as a commentary on heritage, struggles, religion, violence, gender, politics, spontaneity, economics, values and even drugs. I found the materials, ideas and resulting jewelry both impressive and inspiring.
Here are some of the artists featured and their pieces:
Maria Paula Amezcua (Mexico) Altar Itinerante, 2007, a two sided necklace of brass, glass, cotton, collected materials. She call this a "mobile shrine" – one side a protective shield of winged hearts (symbol of San Miguel Arcangel) and the other an astonishing dense series of tiny retablos containing text/images/memories. The exhibit notes say that it represents "Amezcua’s thoughts on Catholicism. The front of the piece is the outward, public side and the inside is the personal pagan inheritance of the native people that was never given up; that which is in their blood." I'd extend that to also include the experience of colonized peoples as well as Mexicans who suddenly found themselves in the USA (surface USA but still Mexican - "we didn't didn't cross the border, the border crossed us").
Alejandra Hernandez Montoya (Colombia) Urn, 2007, a spectacular ring of earthy (not shiny) silver with a deeply inset rutilated quartz. See BAM website for photo of this piece which I find difficult to describe in words.
Martacarmela Sotelo (Mexico) Roots, 2010 a necklace made with pieces of Nopal fiber (one for each state in Mexico), stainless steel wire coated with nylon exploring the increasing movement of the Mexican people throughout Mexico, the USA and the world.
Valentina Rosenthal (Chile) Invisible Cities - a necklace made of items recovered from the rubble of neighborhoods destroyed by recent earthquakes (in this case: recovered wood and plaster rosette, silver, bronze, nails, mirror, steel cable)
Teresa Margolles Ajuste de cuentas - a photo and small installation made from gold, window shield glass, diamonds referencing skyrocketing Mexican crime. Margolles collected glass from criminally caused car crashes then mixed the glass with diamonds - looking at which of the two is really precious.
Alcides Fortes (Cape Verde & Mexico) Olvides de la Revolución a necklace made from discarded tombstone memorials, small oval porcelain and copper portrait medallions of a family assassinated during the Mexican Revolution.
Carolina Hornauer (Chile) created a series of brooches made from resin, cedar wood, cashew lacquer, eggshell, silver, citrine quartz. I especially liked how she incorporated sections of old pictures frames - reconstructing them to create something new of something old - new stories, new contexts. She include the picture frame along with the brooches - as if the pieces of frame had broken free and grew new parts.
Laura de Alba (Mexico) Love Handles a necklace made of recovered drawer handles and yarn (each painted in vivid color). "Her pieces seek to cause surprise and pleasure. De Alba recovers all those materials...leftovers of furniture, buttons, toys, and medals are carefully organized on substrates of weaved, knitted or knotted textile 9re-examining] notions of value and shift our perception of the worthless."
Claudia Cucchi (Brazil) - orange brooch and ring made of perspex (similar to plexiglass or lucite) covering photo negatives or (to great effect) orange peel.
One piece was inspired by the "mamio" quilts of the artist's home country Suriname. These quilts are often made with scraps of ‘pangi’ material (the plaid fabric that traditional Maroon people wear in Suriname).
There was a necklace of tiny glass vials left empty for the wearer to add what small items carried meaning for him/her. To my delight, one of the vials contained a colorin bean (those gorgeous beans that are bright red with a black spot that ones sees in Peru)
Caio Mourao (1933-2005, Brazil) Anti-Jewel (1959) a rough hewn necklace of silver, gold, hematite. "Mourao was one of the major instigators embracing ancient techniques to create jewelry that is defiantly Brazilian. His daughter currently continues his work." More of his work.
- Additional images and information and a blog review.