Taking up the subject of gold (specifically jewelry and adornment) as representative of power, wealth, and love, Lauren Kalman: But if the Crime Is Beautiful..., created by performance artist and metalsmith Lauren Kalman, is MAD's second POV exhibition in the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Jewelry Gallery.
In reference to Austrian architect Adolf Loos' 1908 treatise "Ornament and Crime," in which he declared decoration regressive and fit only for degenerates and criminals (this included women and minorities), Kalman commits a "crime" by covering the inside and outside of MAD's jewelry cases with 2,000 golden brass leaves. Loos' theories laid the groundwork for modernism, known for its spareness, rectilinearity, and rationality. In this installation, the upright white cases in the jewelry gallery stand in for Loos' modernism.
Kalman employs her golden brass leaves as representative of the leaves of kudzu, an invasive vine species that engulfs, spreads, and creates new decorative forms wherever it thrives. Furthermore, similar to invasive kudzu, as guest curator and installation designer Kalman recontextualizes the jewelry gallery, MAD's historic collection, and other artists' practices in an act both beautiful and suffocating. The organic, gilded foliage overtakes the pristine gallery space and weaves in and around gold jewelry from MAD's collection, upending minimalism and austerity. Kalman further challenges Loos’s equation of decoration and femininity in her image and video work made for the exhibition. Through the purity of gold, contrasted with the blunt physicality of her own body, she claims the feminine as a position of power rather than shame.
MAD's POV series invites guests' perspectives on the Museum's permanent collection through the lens of their own practices. Lauren Kalman: But if the Crime Is Beautiful... is organized by Assistant Curator Barbara Paris Gifford.
Support for Lauren Kalman: But if the Crime Is Beautiful… is generously provided by Michele and Marty Cohen, Rotasa Foundation, Susan and Larry Ach, Nancy and David Solomon, and Janet and John Winter.
Lauren Kalman: But if the Crime Is Beautiful... is part of MAD Transformations, a series of six exhibitions presented this fall that address artists who have transformed and continue to transform our perceptions of traditional craft mediums. Building upon the exhibition Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years, which celebrates the work of an artist known for drastically changing the way clay is categorized as an art material and discipline, the MAD Transformations exhibitions consider fiber, clay, and jewelry and metals—disciplines (along with glass and wood) that compose the bedrock of the Museum of Arts and Design’s founding mission and collection, and that continue to morph in the hands of contemporary artists today.