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May 17, 2007 to August 23, 2007

Kiff Slemmons Re:Pair and Imperfection

During 2004 and 2005, metal artist Kiff Slemmons asked 18 of her colleagues to send her fragments of their work that they considered imperfect, broken or no longer usable. In her request letter she emphasized that she did not intend to "fix" the piece but instead to use the fragment as a starting point for an entirely new piece that would be hers but with respect for the ideas and work of the contributing artist. Contributors include: Bettina Dittlman, Sandra Enterline, Thomas Gentile, Lisa Gralnick, Gary Griffin, Daniel Jocz, Esther Knobel, Keith Lewis, Otto Künzli, Bruce Metcalf, Myra Mimlitsch-Gray, Ramona Solberg, June Schwarcz, Joyce Scott, Rachelle Thiewes, Terry Turrell, J. Fred Woell and Joe Wood.

In Slemmons words: “This project resulted from a long term fascination with the irony that, in an art form obsessed with perfection, the imperfect can often be what produces vitality, “ and with each piece, Slemmons had to decide how she could interpret the notion of imperfection. In some cases, she used the fragment intact, in others, she trimmed or reformed it. In two instances she made works based on ideas suggested by the fragment without actually using it. “In addition to my fascination with imperfection, I needed to understand in a more complete way what we mean by originality or collaboration or appropriation. These little broken or incomplete objects pushed me into areas of my imagination that I had never visited. I normally start to work with a clear idea, but this project forced me to begin with incoherence and mystery.”

By the end of the second year Slemmons had created 30 works—pins, necklaces, and rings. The works are displayed in boxes and accompanied by photographs of the original fragments. The boxes were made by Karin Vance and Kim Kopp, and are covered with handmade wild cotton and linen paper made by Arte Papel Oaxaca, a paper atelier near Oaxaca, Mexico, where Slemmons has worked as a visiting artist. A photograph of each fragment in its original form is also on display.

Over the past thirty years, Kiff Slemmons has become known for creating jewelry as rich in concept and meaning as it is varied in form and material. Her work is infused with historical, cultural and literary references. Slemmons has redefined for herself and colleagues the decorative and historical traditions of jewelry, preferring the potential of non-precious materials and the supremacy of concept to produce thought provoking and often humorous pieces.

Slemmons' work has been published regularly in American Craft and Metalsmith magazines, as well as in a number of anthologies of American and European jewelry. Most well known for conceptual work with non-precious materials and found objects, she has recently worked with a local group of artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico, to produce paper jewelry. Slemmons received her BA in Art and French from the University of Iowa in 1968. Her undergraduate studies included a year at the Sorbonne in Paris. Self taught as a metalsmith, she has exhibited nationally and internationally for over 30 years, with nine solo exhibitions, and many group shows. Her work can be found in numerous museum collections, including The Museum of Arts and Design in New York, London's Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The original exhibition was produced by the Chicago Cultural Center and a 64 page illustrated catalog with an essay by Tacey Rosolowski accompanies the exhibition.

Tags: jewelry, metals, mixed media