SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) presents Irreverent: Contemporary Nordic Craft Art from Jan 23-Apr 12, 2009 in YBCAs Terrace Galleries. The three-month long exhibition showcases the surprising work of a new wave of craft artists from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden who challenge the aesthetics and principles of Scandinavian modernism. Rejecting the sleek elegance and mass production that characterized the modernist movement, they emphasize the role of the maker in the act of crafting, and the narrative potential of functional objects. The artists move away from utilitarianism and the aesthetics of high modernism and turn instead to camp and intricacy, triggering a fresh relationship craft and art. By intentionally creating objects whose forms do not give rise to traditional or expected function, they re-contextualize the role of craft art in the fine art world.
Weve gathered together a phenomenal group of craft artists who are consciously engaged in the deconstruction of their modernist origins. Nordic craft art has undergone a renaissance and is increasingly characterized by quirky, provocative, and playful one-of-a-kind works that use traditional craft mediums. These fascinating artists make work that is not just intriguing, but also challenging in its boundary blurring exploration of design, craft art and high art, said guest-curator Kate Eilertsen.
The ten artists featured in Irreverent: Contemporary Nordic Craft Art are Frida Fjellman (Sweden), Tuva Gonsholt (Norway), Eva Hild (Sweden), Per Lysgaard (Norway), Trine Mauritze Erikson (Norway), Louise Nippierd (Norway), Anders Ruhwald (Denmark), Ulla West (Sweden), Anni Rapinoja (Finland), Janna Syvanoja (Finland) and Ulla West (Sweden).
Frida Fjellman (Sweden) uses glass and ceramics as well as wood, plastics and synthetic furs. She creates fairy tales with her installations of giant rabbits and exploding volcanoes. Wide-eyed animals peer sheepishly around scenes of horrific industrial civilization to play with the relationship between nature and culture, humans and animals. The Swedish art historian, Sara Danius says about Fjellmans work: Considering a scene by Fjellman is like listening to a story that is as bizarre as it is charming and that takes place in a borderland between dream and reality, sleeping and waking.
Anders Ruhwald (Denmark) recently had an exhibition of his work in Copenhagen called Form and Function. There was nothing about function in any of these gregarious multi-media objects. With his references to manufacturing wastelands he creates a tension between the attraction of a sensuous material and repulsion to this industrialization.
Nature has been a partner to Finnish artist Anni Rapinoja for over twenty years. She believes people have drifted far away from nature, from their home. She creates objects of function such as shoes, hats and coats that have no functionality at all. By using fragments of nature such as pussy willows, leaves or strands of wheat to make these beautiful objects, she invites the viewer to explore their own relationship to the natural beauty around them. Her art brings out a subconscious craving to be close to nature, to touch the material and a desire to get back to nature.
The artists in this exhibition challenge ideas of beauty, nature, creativity and tradition. They work with traditional craft materialsceramic, glass, fiber, wood and metalto create craft art that makes viewers think about ideas alongside objects. The fact that these post-modern craft artists emerge from the birthplace of democratic elegance, reacting against the stereotypes of their national image, is significant. The artists challenge the notions of modernism, the purpose of craft and even the definition of fine art.
Irreverent: Contemporary Nordic Craft Art is part of YBCAs Ritual and Redemption series, one of the three Big Ideas that guide this seasons programming. In this moment of unprecedented change, artists desire for revelatory insights is stronger than ever before. Art as ritual striving for the sublime through the creative process can be a pathway to redemption, leading to the transformative experience so many desperately crave. The artists in this series embrace the ritualized power of art. They invite the audience into their process and take them to a deeply imaginative place, one that is rarely accessed in overscheduled lives. The artists desire and the audiences is not simply knowledge or awareness, but experience and enlightenment.