REVEALED — An International Contemporary Art Jewellery Exhibition
curated by barbara cohen
Visualspace Gallery, Vancouver, BC
august 15 — september 9, 2018
By: Clarissa Long
On August 15th, VisualSpace Gallery in Vancouver opened up their doors to reveal an International Contemporary Art Jewellery Exhibition – the first ever wearable art show presented in the gallery which typically showcases painting exhibitions. Yukiko Onley, the gallery’s owner, worked with curator Barbara Cohen on this group exhibition to invite a deeper dialogue between those newly acquainted, as well as those with strong roots, to art jewellery. Cohen and Onley’s introduction came from Cohen visiting the gallery while wearing one of her own works of art. This caught Onley’s attention so much so that she felt that an exhibition at the gallery would capture the attention of others new to art jewellery. The show ran from August 15th to September 8th, longer than the usual two week turnaround, to allow for a wider audience and a greater opportunity to see the work.
This is the 6th show curated by Cohen, whose work was also exhibited in the aptly titled show: REVEALED. Cohen described the exhibition as a group effort with support provided by VisualSpace and the Craft Council of British Columbia, a significant advocate for the art jewellery community.
Just as the body informs the work, Cohen felt that the space informed the work. As soon as you entered the gallery space you were greeted with a long, open room in which the works were held. The north end wall of the gallery had neckpieces hung all along it, while brooches were displayed on shelves made by Cohen on the south wall. The back wall featured the exhibition title along with an especially notable blown glass neckpiece made by Caterina Zucchi from Italy. The display of the artworks was executed with pristine attention to detail and thoughtfulness: traits that are often used by others to describe the curator herself. It was the subtle touches in the display, such as hand-torn paper squares placed under brooches to raise the pieces, which elevated the show entirely.
To round out the innovative works of arts along the walls, the show also included an assortment of earrings on display. Earrings can be a stepping stone into the world of art jewellery for some yet these smaller scaled sculptural works held their own ground using obscure but captivating materials ranging from inner tubes to PVC, from matcha noodles to gypsum cement.
The theme for the show, REVEALED, invited artists to reveal something about themselves and their work. Artists, whose work push traditional boundaries, were asked to showcase imagination and ingenuity. The myriad ingenuity exemplified in both matter and concept made by this group of artists revealed a diverse range of innovation in the departure from traditional adornment. Cohen asserts that the ever growing field of contemporary art jewellery uses materials, techniques and concepts that move the work towards the realm of art.
Cohen’s curatorial statement observes that ‘jewelry, unlike most other art forms, can be viewed in a unique way because of its direct contact with and the relationship to the body’. The works were able to be displayed openly without the confines of glass cases, inviting a more intimate interaction of the pieces for viewers, a rare but important opportunity in exhibiting art jewellery. The wearability of the artwork is something very important to Cohen, as well as others, and by removing the protective barrier, it offered encouragement to try pieces on: an essential element to fully realize the transformation of art jewellery on the body.
In a private tour with Cohen, she shared the words of Isabelle Busnel as an insight into her intention for her curatorial efforts: “I believe jewelry is the most powerful, yet underrated means of communicating visually between people”. While the opening reception of the show was met with a full house of viewers, the attendance didn’t stop there for REVEALED. Excitingly, Onley reported that not only was the show very well attended by the local art jewellery community, but that there were many passersby who popped in, curious and intrigued just from the sandwich board poster outside the gallery. A very welcoming sign that as art jewellery continues to be moved into gallery spaces, it will continue to move onto bodies: revealing the ultimate form of exhibition for visual communication.