California Visionaries: Seminal Studio Craft, Featuring Works from the Forrest L. Merrill Collection
Craft in America Center will inaugurate its newly-designed gallery with a landmark exhibition of over 50 historic key works by many of the most influential and innovative Californian craft artists from the mid-twentieth century.
California has been the fertile epicenter for craft investigation in the art world. Employing various materials, techniques and concepts, visionary Californian artists have been at the forefront of the American craft movement. Spanning ceramics, metal, wood, fiber and glass, the objects in California Visionaries: Seminal Studio Craft, Featuring Works from the Forrest L. Merrill Collection reflect the ingenuity and the birth of studio craft. These artists imagined new methods of achieving their vision.
After WWII, California became an especially important place for artists who turned their focus toward craft-based media and processes. Lured by climate, geography, and an inherent spirit of openness, artists who made the state their home found that they were unbounded in their pursuits. Numerous college and university programs were established in schools across the state offering unparalleled training in fiber, ceramics, metal, glass, and wood. California became a hub for creative production and artistic investigation.
This exhibition prominently features the collection of Forrest L. Merrill, widely considered the most significant collection of California studio craft. Merrill’s collection includes some of the finest examples of works made by revered Californian craft pioneers and visionaries over the past century. Since Merrill acquired his first work of art as a high school student, he has taken a visionary approach to collecting in seeking out technical innovation, subtlety, and material mastery. Merrill has supported the limitless possibilities of craft and formed deep friendships with the artists who create these works.
Merrill, through his distinctive approach to collecting, has played an important role in the story of craft. For him, the art and artist are inseparable and he nurtures the artists whose objects he discovers. One such artist is Bay Area resident Kay Sekimachi, who considers him a mentor and a friend. Sekimachi, whose acclaimed experimental work led her to invent complex on- and off-loom weaving techniques, will be featured in this exhibition.
This exhibition will celebrate Californian visionary artists who shaped the future with a far-reaching commitment to expand craft, art and design, break barriers and forge new visions all their own.
“I’m not particularly interested in just showing pretty things. I want the work to have a story. I want the artist, through their work, to tell a story.”
– Forrest L. Merrill
Photos by Denise Kang