Indepth Arts News: |
"White House Collection of American Crafts"
2000-07-01 until 2000-10-22
University of Michigan Museum of Art
Ann Arbor, MI,
USA United States of America
Assembled in 1993, the White House collection of American crafts features
seventy-two works by seventy-seven of America's leading craft artists. The collection
was put together to reflect the nation's longstanding tradition of craftmaking and the
richness and diversity of this important aspect of American heritage.
The pieces in the collection illustrate the skill, imagination, and vitality characteristic
of craft in the 1990s. Using glass, wood, clay, fiber, and metal, these artists reveal
their ability to manipulate materials--often traditional materials used by artists for
centuries if not millennia--in inventive ways. Their commitment to the handmade
reflects an ongoing passion for the intimate, physical qualities of the handmade
object. This commitment has undergone periods of resurgence in response to the
industrialization of the late nineteenth century (a resurgence known as the Arts and
Crafts Movement) and more recently in response to computer technology, the
internet, and digitization.
The White House is a symbol of American history and of American ideals and
aspirations, as well as the most frequently toured home in the country. As such, it is
an important repository for fine works of art in many media and many traditions. Its
collections include paintings and sculptures exploring American themes,
landscapes, and portraits; antique furniture and decorative arts in period settings;
and important historical memorabilia. From its first residents--John and Abigail
Adams--in 1800 to the Clintons in the 1990s, the First Families have brought their
own interests to the White House collections, often rearranging and tailoring the
spaces to suit their tastes and needs.
The collection on view in this exhibition does not pretend to be an exhaustive survey
of all facets of contemporary American craftmaking. Objects were chosen to reflect
the architecture, historical settings, and furnishings of the White House; to represent
all media in craftmaking; and primarily to be displayed in cases and on furniture
rather than hung on the wall. These criteria suggest why the traditional vessel form
emerged as the most common form in the collection, expressed in all craft media.
Indirectly, these criteria raise important critical questions to be examined in
companion educational programs: how can a national collection be built in an age
of multiculturalismNULL Do traditional boundaries between fine arts and crafts have
continuing relevance for the twenty-first centuryNULL
The White House collection of American crafts was assembled under the guidance
of Michael Monroe, then Curator-in-Charge of the Smithsonian InstitutionŐs
Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art. The showing of the
collection in Ann Arbor was first proposed by Marvin Krislov, Vice President and
General Counsel of the University of Michigan and formerly on the White House staff.
The presentation of this exhibition has made possible in part through the generosity
of the Friends of the University of Michigan Museum of Art and the University of
Michigan Office of the Vice President for Research. Additional support has been
provided by the Michigan Guild of Artists, the State Street Area Art Fair, the University
of Michigan Arts of Citizenship Program, Mr. and Mrs. James Donahey, Marjorie M.
Jackson, Mr. and Mrs. Fernando S. Leon, Jane Myers and John Barton, William
Charles Parkinson, Dr. and Mrs. Amnon Rosenthal, Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Roth,
Edward Surovell Realtors, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Wylie, and all donors to the
Museum's Annual Fund 2000 appeal. These donors are too numerous to list here
but their gifts have been essential to this exhibition and its companion educational
white stoneware, alkaline and barium glazes