Process is King: Conceptual Craft @ DENK Gallery

Nova Jiang Wobble. Conceptual Craft at DENK Gallery. Photo Credit Jacqueline Bell Johnson.

Process is King: Conceptual Craft @ DENK Gallery

By Jacqueline Bell Johnson

Through October 14th


For the longest time “craft” was a dirty word in fine art.  Craft refers to functional objects, often commissioned or created for profit.  It refers to mindless, pretty, kitsch work made even more accessible by merchandising.  Even work of fine craft is often snubbed by art world elites, as holding less value than their fine art counterparts.  But appreciating craft is appreciating legacy, efficacy, cultural heritage, longstanding and frequently contemporized tradition.

The work seen in this exhibition starts with traditions of making.  The romance of the artist in the studio exploring material with their hands, perfecting its interactions to create objects of sleek beauty.  Function, as thought of conventionally, is neither here nor there.  Reminiscent, perhaps, but a better argument is the focus is on the function of the technique with the material and not between the object and its owner.  Process is king, the end result a souvenir for the viewer to ponder.

Ashley Hagen’s Between Thick Walls houses a multi-level doll house void of furniture or personal effects.  It is the empty shell, viewable through clear glass and with the help of mirrors placed within in the piece.  As the title describes it is tucked into the space between, acting as secret place to go and imagine.

Nova Jiang’s 2D/3D piece consists of a ceramic stamp of a pitcher and a print made with the stamp.  There’s an art school joke in making a non-functional ceramic pitcher, but then to take the sculpture and make it functional in another way adds a second layer of humor.

Tim Hawkinson’s Tree Chain is exactly that: a Christmas tree trunk that has been carved into a chain.  The sculpture contemplates the material’s origin and the lost potential of an often discarded holiday decoration.  Displayed in a weeping curve on the pedestal, the piece emulates a young sprout.  At close inspection, the trunk is roughly prepared with bark intact.  The jutting branches pointing outward from the carving reveals the geometry of the form.

Lynn Aldrich’s Sprinkler is a sculpture made with ordinary hoses, in shades of blue, green, and turquoise on top of pipes of black patinaed aluminum and steel.  The form created is a that of water bursting from a garden fountain.  The hoses, instead of carrying the water from pump to fountain head, take the path instead.

Pontus Willfors’ Rocking Chair has tendrils flowing out of a rocking chair.  These “branches” split, becoming smaller and smaller as they stretch out from the chair.  It is a sculpture straight out of a fairy tale, an artifact abandoned and growing wild in the forest.  Following the lines from the center outward, the piece seems to grow and morph in real time, a contemporary take on Bernini’s Daphne.

Conceptual Craft is on view through October 14th at DENK Gallery.  The gallery has plans to expand on this exhibition concept, showing another installment of art and artists utilizing craft in the summer of 2018.

Conceptual Craft
Exhibition Dates: September 9th through October 14th 2017
Lynn Aldrich
Jeff Colson
Ashley Hagen
Tim Hawkinson
Nova Jiang
Jared Pankin
Ephraim Puusemp
Pontus Willfors


DENK Gallery

749 East Temple St, Los Angeles, CA 90012


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