“From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith” Showcases Important Figure in Modern Jewelry Design
May 13, 2015
ATLANTA, May 13, 2015 – The High Museum of Art will present 20 pieces of jewelry by acclaimed African-American jewelry designer Arthur “Art” Smith from June 21 through Sept. 13, 2015.
“From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith,” organized by the Brooklyn Museum, spans Smith’s career and features his work from the late 1940s through the 1970s. The exhibition is enhanced by archival material from the artist’s estate, including the original shop sign designed by Smith and period photographs of models wearing his designs as well as sketches and a selection of unfinished works and shop tools that showcase Smith’s working process.
“Art Smith’s designs are dynamic, kinetic, wearable sculptures,” said Sarah Schleuning, curator of decorative arts and design at the High. “Smith sees the human form as a natural extension of his jewelry, which creates unique and dramatic presentations. He is an important designer whose work the High is proud to present to our community.”
Smith was one of the leading modernist jewelers of the mid-20th century. Inspired by Surrealism, biomorphism, primitivism and a deep understanding of the female form, his jewelry is dynamic in size and shape while remaining lightweight and functional. Indebted to American sculptor Alexander Calder and his kinetic, abstract designs, Smith created wearable, ornamental interpretations of contemporary art. Smith typically eschewed expensive materials traditionally used in jewelry-making (gold, platinum and precious stones) in favor of lesser materials, such as copper and brass. The rare silver and gold works featured in the exhibition were in Smith’s personal holdings at the time of his death and presumably represent the best examples of his work.
The exhibition features some of Smith’s most famous designs, including:
- The “Patina” necklace, inspired by Calder’s mobiles
- The “Undulation Ring” with three semi-precious stones that stretch over three fingers
- The “Lava” bracelet, or cuff, which extends over the entire lower arm in overlapping forms
“From the Village to Vogue” continues a series of jewelry-focused exhibitions presented by the High. The exhibition will follow the High’s current presentation of jewelry designs by Memphis-born Earl Pardon. Other recent jewelry exhibitions include “Bangles to Benches: Contemporary Jewelry and Design” (currently on view) and “Gogo: Nature Transformed” (2012–2013), featuring the work of Georgia-born designer Gogo Ferguson.
About Art Smith
Born to Jamaican parents in Cuba and raised in Brooklyn N.Y., Art Smith (1917–1982) demonstrated artistic talent at an early age. He received a scholarship to Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, where he was one of only a handful of black students. He majored in sculpture, which provided invaluable training when he became a jeweler. In 1947 he opened his first store on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village, then the bohemian center of New York City and a hotbed of modern art. By the mid-1950s, Smith’s career was flourishing; he received feature pictorial coverage in both “Harper’s Bazaar” and “Vogue,” and boutiques across the nation sold his work. He was also an active supporter of black and gay civil rights, a jazz music enthusiast and a supporter of early black modern dance groups. Smith’s highly productive career continued until shortly before his death in 1982.
About the High Museum of Art Decorative Arts and Design Department
The High’s decorative arts and design collection is the most comprehensive survey of American decorative arts in the southeastern United States, with more than 2,300 objects dating from 1640 to the present. Strengths of the collection include works of 20th- and 21st-century design that explore the intersections between art and design, handcraft and technology, and innovation and making. Highlights include the Virginia Carroll Crawford Collection of American decorative art, with important works by Alexander Roux, Herter Brothers, Tiffany & Co. and Frank Lloyd Wright. Other notable gifts include the Frances and Emory Cocke Collection of English Ceramics from 1640 to 1840. Recent acquisitions focusing on design from the 20th and 21st centuries include key additions of Gerrit Rietveld’s “Red/Blue Chair” (1918), Ron Arad’s “Blo-Void 1” chair (2006) and Joris Laarman’s “MX3D (Dragon Bench) (Prototype)” (2014).
Exhibition Organization and Support
“From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith” is organized by the Brooklyn Museum.
About the High Museum of Art
The High is the leading art museum in the southeastern United States. With more than 14,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the High Museum of Art has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American and decorative art; significant holdings of European paintings; a growing collection of African American art; and burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, photography, folk art and African art. The High is also dedicated to supporting and collecting works by Southern artists. For more information about the High, visit stage.high.org.
About The Woodruff Arts Center
The Woodruff Arts Center is one of the largest arts centers in the world, home to the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the High Museum of Art. Each year, these arts organizations play host to over 1.2 million patrons at The Woodruff Arts Center’s midtown Atlanta location, one of the only arts centers in the United States to host both visual and performing arts on a single campus. Through its work with educators and schools, The Woodruff Arts Center serves over 300,000 students annually and is the largest arts educator in Georgia.
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