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All that glitters is art at Betchler Museum jewelry exhibit
'All that Sparkles…" breaks boundaries
Published Friday, July 22, 2016 10:32 am
by Ashley Mahoney

“All that Sparkles…20th Century  Artists’ Jewelry on display at the Bechtler Museum.

Art stimulates conversation.

Traditional topics stemmed from painting and sculpture, but as “All that Sparkles…20th Century Artists’ Jewelry” at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art illustrates, the boundary between functional art and art to be looked at disintegrated.

“One trend of the 20th century was that this stuff was supposed to be less precious,” Bechtler curator Jennifer Sudul Edwards said. “Everything is supposed to be something that is [a part] of people’s lives, approachable for people’s lives, usable, touchable. There’s a lot interest in breaking down that barrier between artwork as precious and something that’s supposed to be a part of your life in every way.”

On view in the Bechtler’s second-floor gallery, the exhibit’s all-black design and strategic lighting stems from the idea of visitors entering a large jewelry box rather than an exhibit.

“Most of the artists in our collection are very much of that group that wanted that strong relationship and interaction between the viewer and the artwork,” Edwards said. “We are fortunate to have a lot of examples of that.”

“All that Sparkles…20th Century Artists’ Jewelry” includes several pieces that Andreas Bechtler, to whom the museum owes its name, wore. It includes artists such as Raffael Benazzi, Niki de Saint Phalle, Alberto Giacometti, Harry Bertoia, Clair Falkenstein and Alicia Penalba.

“We have a sculpture that we are going to show in the fall that literally is a puzzle piece,” Edwards said. “It’s brass, and you’re literally supposed to like take it apart and play with it. It’s beautiful, and it’s heavy, and it’s wonderful, but it’s also not possible now that it’s a museum piece, but it used to sit on credenza in the Bechtlers’ home. Andreas said he used to just sit there and fiddle with it and play with it. There is that interest in bringing that sort of user-friendly aspect of the work back.”

Several of the pieces illustrate a strong connection to Egyptian and Greek styles, such as Falkenstein. Her work reflects the response to the discovery of the contents of King Tut’s tomb in Egypt.

“Bringing the user-friendly aspect back “might also be a tradition of Greek and Egyptian art that’s coming in,” Edwards said.

Falkenstein preferred working with metal rather than making jewelry and found physics a fascinating influence on her work. Her name—outside of Europe and Los Angeles—goes largely unnoticed. However, historians have begun to reexamine her work. While history takes its time deciding where to place her work, Falkenstein challenged the commercialization of art in 1976, and her words apply to 2016: “I feel the whole world has been turned upside down by merchandising—not only of things and everyday products but art too, has come under the spell…you think in terms of repetition and repetition and repetition, putting out and treating it like a commodity. But you see, this isn’t. This isn’t a commodity. This is like a philosophic statement.”


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