Review: Language of adornment spoken at BAM Latin American jewelry exhibit
"Think Twice: New Latin American Jewelry" is an exhibition of more than 100 works by artists from 25 countries. It runs through Oct. 16, 2011, at Bellevue Arts Museum.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Think Twice: New Latin American Jewelry'11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays through Oct. 16, Bellevue Arts Museum, 510 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue; $7-$25 (425-519-0770 or www.bellevuearts.org).
This is an exhibition that expands the definition of jewelry.
The pieces in "Think Twice: New Latin American Jewelry" at Bellevue Arts Museum, made of materials both familiar and totally unexpected, enlarge the concept of ornamentation. Their artists look to the past, drawing on the rich and diverse cultural history of Latin America even as they adapt modern concepts.
Included are more than 130 works by 93 artists from 25 countries. Although the emphasis is on jewelry made in the last 10 years, you'll see evidence of pre-Columbian beliefs and decorative motifs.
The oldest piece is "Croissant" (1940), a silver necklace by William Spratling, an Anglo who relocated to Taxco, Mexico. Spratling is credited with reviving the ancient silver craft for which the town is now known. This piece, with its large rosewood pendant, looks tame in contrast to other works in the show.
Compare it to the contemporary necklace "Collar para el Coleccionista" (2009) created by Julieta Odio of Costa Rica. Attached to the silver necklace are dozens of small vials into which the wearer can place tiny items. For this exhibit, one vial holds a diminutive colored bean.
Many pieces have political significance. Colombian artist Nuria Carulla's graceful necklace "Sentados" (1978) is a slender silver wire from which dangles an impressionistic silver straight chair. Political prisoners in Colombia were often tied to chairs — for as long as 300 days — before being released.
Many of the artists include found objects within their jewelry. Alcides Fortes of Cape Verde and Mexico created "Olvides de la Revolución" (2008), a long silver necklace that includes portrait medallions made of porcelain and copper. The portraits were tombstone memorials depicting a family assassinated during the Mexican Revolution. The cemetery discarded them; Fortes rescued them and created a wearable object that honors the memory of this family.
Two oversized bracelets called "Protesis I" and "Protesis II" (1996), decorated with gold and diamonds by Bettina Terepins of Brazil, have been made from imbuia, a dark tropical wood now on the endangered-species list. She found decrepit old tables made from imbuia, cut pieces from the legs, hollowed them out, and created the stunning, modern-looking cuffs.
Luis Acosta of Argentina looks back to ancient Peru for his inspiration. Quipus were knotted ropes invented by the Incas to keep records in their vast storage houses. Acosta used that idea and made "Quipus" (2010), modern brooches of paper and thread in the form of knots.
Isel Mendoza of Mexico looks back to Aztec and pre-Aztec sources. Her "Hummingbird" (2007), a ring of silver feathers, looks light, but it digs uncomfortably into one's finger, reminding the wearer that life then and now is harsh.
This is a most unusual jewelry exhibition with fascinating objects that speak to past and present. It's well worth a visit.
Nancy Worssam: firstname.lastname@example.org
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