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November 11, 2000 to January 7, 2001

Jewels of Mind and Mentality: Fifty Years of Avant-Garde Dutch Jewelry

Part of an international tour, Jewels of Mind and Mentality’s only U.S. venue is at the Philadelphia Art Alliance. A total of 384 pieces of art for the body by 24 Dutch artists will be displayed in the Main (second-floor) Galleries and the Third Floor Gallery from November 11, 2000 through January 7, 2001.

An illustrated, color catalogue published by Museum Het Kruithuis is available for $35 at the Philadelphia Art Alliance.

Jewels of Mind and Mentality has been organized by Museum Het Kruithuis, a contemporary art museum in s’-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. Most of the objects have been acquired for this travelling exhibition as well as for its permanent collection.

Jewels of Mind and Mentality contextualizes the work of leading Dutch jewelry designers within the larger scope of international art movements such as Russian Constructivism, Pop Art and Body Art. These movements prompted Dutch artists to distance themselves from traditional "precious decoration" jewelry.

The earliest shift away from the model of artisan-as-goldsmith began in the early 1950s in the work of Esther Stuart-Hudig, Chris Steenbergen, and Archibald Dumbar. Their interests in form and concept rather than technical mastery were rooted in current Constructivist theory, in particular that of Russian sculptors Anton Pevsner and Naum Gabo, who emphasized the spatial relationships of their organic forms, which were made from new, synthetically produced materials such as plastic and Plexiglas.

A second generation of pioneering artists, later termed the "Dutch Smooth" group, extended these concepts by treating jewelry as something that could be produced serially. Common industrial materials such as aluminum and rubber were redefined to emphasize certain parts of the body. Hans Appenzeller, Gijs Bakker, and Emmy van Leersum’s "impersonal," serialized treatment of the ornament broke decisively with the notion of jewelry as a unique and precious object. The formal elements of design -- the most important components for the previous generation -- were pushed further and combined with the Dutch Smooth’s interest in conceptual framework.

During the 1970s American artists Vito Acconci and Bruce Nauman were influential figures for Dutch jewelry designers. Acconci’s and Nauman’s "body art" videotaped performances, in which they manipulated their own bodies for the camera, underscored the message that, for Dutch designers, the body was inseparable from the meaning of the object designed for it. Artists like Philip Sajet, Herman Hermsen, and Dinie Besems created jewelry that was meant to act upon the body rather than to have the body act a structural support for the object. The work was to be an "envelope" for the active viewer, who transformed his/her body into an image by inserting it into the space encompassed by the work of art. At the same time, taking their cue from Pop Art and its embrace of mass culture, Dutch designers began incorporating Readymade (found) objects and everyday materials into their work. Maria Hees, for example, used hairbrushes and other functional objects to create brooches.

Reaction against the influential "Dutch Smooth" group came in 1980s when a sculptural approach to one-of-a-kind works became the predominant mode of working. Artists such as Onno Boekhoudt, Ruudt Peters, Marion Herbst, and LAM de Wolf emphasized the need for one-of-a-kind objects that expressed the artist’s sensibility. This renewed emphasis on originality was accompanied by an interest in experimenting with an unorthodox treatment of materials. LAM de Wolf, for instance, draped a series of painted silk chains over the wearer’s back. Innovation became the criteria for a new generation of artists.

Tags: jewelry