California Handmade: State of the Arts

California Handmade: State of the Arts

June 7, 2015 – January 2, 2016

A publication of Craft in America in partnership with the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts

Text by Emily Zaiden

This catalog is published in conjunction with “California Handmade: State of the Arts,” an exhibition of innovative sculpture, furniture, textiles, jewelry, and decorative arts by 84 visionary California artists. The exhibition is co-presented by Craft in America and the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts, and exhibited at the Maloof’s Jacobs Education Center Gallery from June 7, 2015 – January 2, 2016.

www.craftinamerica.org
www.malooffoundation.org

Printed by Susan Ross Printing
Designed by Stacie Martinez

© 2015 Craft in America, Inc.
All rights reserved.

ISBN 978-0-692-56367-0

Contents
1 PREFACE
2 FOREWORD
3 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
4 INTRODUCTION
5 UNCONVENTIONAL APPROACHES: EXPERIMENTATION WITH PROCESS, MATERIALS AND TECHNOLOGY
6 SKIN AND BONES: FORMING THE BODY
7 THE STATE OF THE UNION: CRAFTING POLITICAL EXPRESSION
8 THE MEANING OF PLACE: CALIFORNIAN LANDSCAPE AND THE NEO-ROMANTIC
9 RISING TIDES: FLUID FORMS AND WATER AS MOTIF
10 THE CALIFORNIA LIFESTYLE NOW
11 FROM THE EARTH: ECO-SENSITIVE REPURPOSING AND REGENERATION
12 THE ADVANCEMENT OF FUNCTIONAL CRAFT TRADITIONS: INFUSING BEAUTY INTO THE EVERYDAY WORLD
13 MATERIAL PURSUITS: VIRTUOSITY IN CRAFT
14 TROMPE L’OEIL CRAFT: VISUAL PLAY, PUNS AND PROVOCATIONS
15 STORYTELLING, IMAGINATION AND THE EVOCAATIVE NARRATIVE
16 BOARD OF DIRECTORS


PREFACE

An East Coast curator told me recently of returning disappointed from a conference in Europe. “I didn’t meet a single person under fifty years old who was interested in craft,” she said. I think she should have visited California.

Since work began more than a year ago on California Handmade: State of the Arts, we’ve discovered tremendous energy coming from a new generation of artists across the Golden State. With participation as well from master artists already well known for their imaginative and innovative work, we have been able to bring together a truly exquisite exhibition—and this catalog—as clear evidence of a thriving community of artists.

With this work, we build proudly on the legacy of Sam Maloof, as an artist and maker of craft to be sure, but also as an avid collector of the handmade, and as someone who, with Alfreda beside him, so appreciated artists for their bright eyes, skillful hands and playful spirits. We are deeply appreciative of our partners at Craft in America. Founder and Executive Director Carol Sauvion has shared with us all her great curiosity for, and knowledge of, the handmade. We especially thank Craft in America Center Director Emily Zaiden, who worked tirelessly to fill the gallery with art and artists and with a curator’s eye, to illuminate so thoughtfully our understanding. We thank as well longtime Maloof board member John Scott, whose passionate devotion to the cause added immeasurably to the results, and exhibition designer John Fleeman and his team, whose fine work is likewise appreciated.

In addition to all those acknowledged elsewhere, we are grateful to the generous benefactors who have made it possible to publish this exhibition catalog: Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Unis—Joe and Georgette—great friends of The Maloof who, by their support, demonstrate their deep passion for art, artists, and education; and John Scott, who has been an enthusiastic advocate for producing exhibition catalogs for as long as anyone can remember.

Jim Rawitsch, Executive Director, Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts

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FOREWORD

California is a vast state resplendent with natural beauty, inviting to artists who wish to have unbridled freedom of expression. The crafts have been an essential part of life in California from the Pomo Indians’ baskets to the Arts and Crafts movement through to today, when artists are utilizing many forms and materials to express their vision. California Handmade: State of the Arts honors California’s craft traditions and introduces the work of the next generation of practitioners. Suggested by Maloof Foundation Executive Director Jim Rawitsch, curated by Craft in America Center Director Emily Zaiden with the participation of twelve “master artists,” and envisioned by Maloof Board members Connie Ransom and John Scott, the California Handmade exhibition is a record of the work being imagined and realized now, in the second decade of the twenty-first century. We have evolved as makers, but the intention to express, include, provoke and comment remains the same.

How appropriate that the California Handmade exhibition is presented by the Maloof Foundation and Craft in America, two contemporary organizations that value and support the handmade. The Maloof Foundation is the result of Sam Maloof’s lifelong dedication to the crafts and Beverly Maloof’s dedication to Sam’s legacy. We at Craft in America, with the mission to promote and advance original hand – crafted work through programs in all media, owe a debt of gratitude to Sam, who welcomed us to his new home in 2001 to film a sample episode of our documentary series. Sam then participated in the first episode of Craft in America, which aired on PBS in 2007. Eight years later, his spirit of inclusiveness and his quest for excellence are qualities we continue to nurture in our documentary series and ancillary projects.

This catalog is a lasting record of the objects and artists who participated in California Handmade. In it we have followed the inspiration of Eudorah Moore and photographed objects in nature as Eudorah did for the California Design exhibition catalogs of the early 1970s. Eudorah described herself as a protagonist for the crafts. This catalog honors her vision, displaying many of the objects out of doors, in the magnificent garden planted by Beverly Maloof with the help of dedicated volunteers in the generous spirit of the crafts.

California Handmade opened in June of 2015 with a reception that drew artists and appreciators from every corner of California. We rejoiced at being together to witness the vitality of the artists and the crafts in California. To see generations of makers join in celebration is a perfect way to understand the power of art. We at Craft in America are grateful to the Maloof Foundation for the opportunity to present a lasting documentation of that celebration in this catalog.

Carol Sauvion, Executive Director, Craft in America

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We must first acknowledge all of the artists who have contributed to the exhibition California Handmade: State of the Arts, creating a vital, provocative, well-crafted and unique survey of California craft now. You increase our understanding of the field in this era of technology. You honor the individual and form a new community through your participation.

From the Maloof Foundation, we extend deepest thanks to the following individuals: Longtime Maloof Board member John Scott and Maloof Board President Connie Ransom, who helped at every juncture and kept us focused on the exhibition as it reflected the Maloof philosophy; Beverly Maloof, for graciously hosting Madison Metro and Sebastian Duncan-Portuondo when they spent days at the Maloof Foundation photographing the exhibition objects in the glorious garden that Beverly envisioned and brought to bloom. We thank Lindell Marsh, Maloof Foundation board member for sharing his desire to truly represent contemporary thinking in the craft field. We are grateful, too, for the photographic talents of Tom and Toni Bostick.

We also thank Linda Apodaca, Maloof registrar who handled transport and care of the objects with utmost professionalism. Linda’s enthusiasm and energy propelled us to the installation. Melanie Swezey-Cleaves, who swiftly generated a database for efficiently cataloging the objects, brought her much-needed organizational skills to the exhibition. We owe appreciation as well to exhibition designer John Fleeman and his gifted team, who installed a fine presentation of objects that required sensitive placement.

And finally, the heart of Maloof Woodworking, Ros Bock, who has kept the shop organized and productive all the years while Sam was with us and now. Ros always has time for everyone. She is dear to both Craft in America and the Maloof Foundation.

From Craft in America, we appreciate the special contributions of: Madison Metro, our photographer, who saw these objects from a fresh perspective and captured their spirit. Stacie Martinez, our Heroic graphic designer, whose talent and artistry were absolutely invaluable. Sebastian Duncan-Portuondo, Craft in America Center Coordinator, who has dedicated himself to the execution of the catalog in various capacities for many months. Judy Hing, who has dedicated her time and served as our deeply perceptive copy editor. John Maeda and Hannah Hawker, who designed the California Handmade logo. Olivia Fales, who worked enthusiastically and creatively on envisioning the exhibition early on. We thank the Craft in America production office: Patricia Bischetti, Rosey Guthrie, Denise Kang and Beverly Feldman and the staff at Freehand Gallery: Terry de Castro, Mary Oligny and Ruth Oglesby for their generous assistance.

We are incredibly grateful to Rick Hosmer and Susan Ross Printing for their kindness in helping to execute this project.

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INTRODUCTION

This exhibition highlights the forward-thinking spirit of our state as embodied in recent works of art made with virtuosity and profundity. These objects are the outcome of dexterous manipulation and contemplative application of materials in the service of personal expression and storytelling, infusing beauty into the world and eliciting more meaningful ways of living. Ranging from the functional to the purely sculptural, this collection of eighty-four objects is filled with revelations about the evolving nature of craft and insights into what makes our culture tick. While California craft and its practitioners defy categorization, these exemplary works assert that experimentation, imagination and diversity of thought are thriving.

California Handmade: State of the Arts is a collaboration between The Maloof and Craft in America that revives the spirit of the influential California Design exhibitions. In those groundbreaking surveys, industrial design innovation and handcraft mastery were paired together under the same spotlight. The California Design exhibitions documented essential contributions by Californians to the then emerging Studio Craft movement. Now, four decades after curator Eudorah Moore orchestrated the last of those exhibitions, we stop to evaluate and celebrate our current artistic culture.

This new exhibition proudly features the work of several Studio Craft pioneers who were participants in those original California Design exhibitions. These artists have received national and international acclaim over the interim years while contributing to the expansion of the field. Their consistent dedication to reinvention and relevancy provides a model for those who have started their practices more recently and who will ideally have a similar legacy. As a launching point for this show, we relied upon the input of twelve core artists (signified with a ● throughout the catalog) from across the state to identify other artists in their specific disciplines who are generating exceptional work. We focused on six traditional media as a structural basis—glass, fiber, metal, wood, ceramics and book art—in addition to objects made from alternative materials, and set out to select artists who specialize in each of these categories. Once the additional artists were determined, we selected recent, exemplary pieces from each of the core and the invited artists.

This survey poses two difficult questions: what is the current significance of the word “handmade” and what does it mean to be Californian? In this day and age, “handmade” is a ubiquitous term that is casually and commercially exploited and its meaning has been diluted from overuse. Our intent is to re-evaluate the age-old, yet evolving practice of crafting objects by hand and call attention to its importance in our artistic trajectory.

Included in the show are objects that were skillfully made with the help of tools, as has been the case throughout the course of time. Although the tools may have changed in some cases, skillful manipulation, concept and design remain vital to the end product. While many objects in this show attest to the continuity of traditional methods and practices, we have also included objects that champion new tools, techniques and the limitless potential of technology.

The second fundamental question touches on issues of identity and community. Is it possible to translate the impact of geographic and political boundaries into quantifiable artistic traits? Particularly in a state as large and demographically diverse as California, these characteristics are hard to pinpoint. California has always been known for being unfettered to tradition, unlike older states where history and heritage shape the regional aesthetic. Resoundingly, California represents a broad cross-section of American and global currents, and individualism prevails over conformity.

Today, the boundaries between media, the utilitarian and the conceptual, and around design, art and craft are eroded. Artists are increasingly versatile and experimental, often preferring to operate unencumbered by the limitations of traditional, singular disciplines. Several of the included artists split their practices between generating wares for living and sculptural works, which allows for creative diversification.

A number of thematic threads link this body of works together. There are moments of tranquility with unadulterated, exuberant visual pleasure balanced by strong social commentary about racial inequalities, identity conflicts and class struggles. Provocative conversation pieces are scattered throughout this group and artists’ voices can be heard loud and clear. Engagement, beyond simply the visual and tactile, is a compelling motivation for many artists to create.

The landscape has offered lyrical, romantic inspiration throughout the state’s aesthetic history, resulting in the stylized representations, motifs and focal subject matter. While depictions of California’s varied natural assets continue, they are tempered by a heightened fear for our legacy and even remorse about our impact on the natural world. Sustainability, eco-friendly production processes and use of repurposed materials are primary considerations for many. This body of craft reconsiders our connection with the natural world and suggests that we have become increasingly removed.

These works of humor and wit, experiments in process and design, and examples of artistic mastery are imbued with the signature free-spiritedness of California. Rays of optimism shine through, compelling us to consider what the future may hold.

Emily Zaiden, Director, Craft in America Center

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UNCONVENTIONAL APPROACHES: EXPERIMENTATION WITH PROCESS, MATERIALS AND TECHNOLOGY

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SKIN AND BONES: FORMING THE BODY

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THE STATE OF THE UNION: CRAFTING POLITICAL EXPRESSION

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THE MEANING OF PLACE: CALIFORNIAN LANDSCAPE AND THE NEO-ROMANTIC

 

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RISING TIDES: FLUID FORMS AND WATER AS MOTIF

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THE CALIFORNIA LIFESTYLE NOW

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FROM THE EARTH: ECO-SENSITIVE REPURPOSING AND REGENERATION

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THE ADVANCEMENT OF FUNCTIONAL CRAFT TRADITIONS: INFUSING BEAUTY INTO THE EVERYDAY WORLD

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MATERIAL PURSUITS: VIRTUOSITY IN CRAFT

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TROMPE L’OEIL CRAFT: VISUAL PLAY, PUNS AND PROVOCATIONS

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STORYTELLING, IMAGINATION AND THE EVOCATIVE NARRATIVE

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We have made every effort to contact all owners of images reproduced in this book. If proper acknowledgment has not been made, we ask owners to contact Craft in America. We regret any omissions.

Madison Metro photographed all images reproduced in this catalog except where credit has been identified otherwise.


BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Craft in America and the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts wish to thank their Boards of Directors for their support.

Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts: Nick Brown, Charles Field, Anthea Hartig, Larry Henderson, Ann Joslin, Beverly Maloof, Lindell Marsh, Carolyn Owen-Towle, Richard Pace, Connie Ransom, Janice Rutherford, John Scott, David Spencer, Fritz Weis, Diane Williams, Todd Wingate. Emeritus Board Members: Slimen Maloof, Ted Maloof, William Knox Mellon.

Craft in America” Susan A. Grode (President), Corinna L. Cotsen (Secretary), Susan K. Schear (Treasurer), Carolyn L. E. Benesh, Lloyd E. Herman, Lois Jecklin, Jane C. Milosch, Steven Poster.