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Think Again: New Latin American Jewelry Showcases Contemporary Jewelry from this Region for the First Time in a U.S. Museum

More than 80 New Works Reveal the Skill and Invention of These Directional Artists

New York, NY (June 23, 2010)

Think Again: New Latin American Jewelry, presented by the Museum of Arts and Design from October 12, 2010 through January 8, 2011, will feature the latest trends and movements through works by 50 jewelry makers, representing some 23 Latin American countries. Among the artists included are the Brazilians Mirla Fernandes, Dionea Rocha Watt, and Claudia Cucchi; Valentina Rosenthal from Chile; the Argentinians Elisa Gulminelli, Francisca Kweitel, and Silvina Romero; Jorge Manilla and Eduardo Graue from Mexico; and Miguel Luciano from Puerto Rico. The show has been guest-curated by the Netherlands-based, Mexican-born architect Valeria Vallarta Siemelink, who is also the president of the Otro Diseño Foundation for Cultural Cooperation and Development, which organized the show.

Objects of adornment have played a significant cultural role throughout Latin America’s history, from the spiritually potent jewelry of the pre-Columbians to the eye-catching ornaments worn by Mexican drug gangs to advertise their status and menace. Now a new generation of jewelry makers working outside the field’s conventions are examining how this complex relationship with physical adornment evolved--and why.

“The new Latin American jewelry must be appreciated for what it is. One shouldn’t impose stereotypes or resort to clichés,” says guest curator Valeria Vallarta Siemelink. “Far from being an imported concept from the West, jewelry-as-art in Latin America is very much a product of the region’s history and its diverse and dynamic modern societies.”

“This is a very special show,” adds Ursula Neuman, MAD’s jewelry curator. “This jewelry is virtually unknown in the United States. The artists’ realize their sophisticated concepts
through intriguing choices of materials and techniques, creating unique works that present a fascinating amalgam of indigenous cultural elements and the latest trends in international
contemporary jewelry design.”

To bring clarity to Latin America’s complex culture and history, the exhibition is organized around three themes, addressing the region’s past, its unique fusion of ethnic influences, and its everchanging socio-political realities.

1. History, Memory, Tradition:
The tension between tradition and modernity is crucial to Latin American history. Heritage and memory, both personal and collective, are among the subjects expressed by these artists
through pre-Columbian and colonial jewelry methods and traditional craft techniques. Take the Colombian Mariana Shuk. She has made a series of rings using traditional ring shanks
ordered from mega-jewelry suppliers. She creates a ring by interlacing two identical shanks. Its shape determines which techniques—stone setting, enameling, filigree—she will employ to customize it in the Colombian colonial style. The process has produced a perplexing assortment of rings that confronts past and present, value and insignificance. By contrast, another Columbian artist, Linda Sanchez, creates her jewelry pieces by employing weaving techniques that have been used by an Amazonian tribe since ancient times.

2. A Knack for Invention:
The artists in this section are some of the boldest jewelry makers anywhere. Skilled at improvisation, they make brilliant use of a rich variety of native materials along with such everyday objects as balloons and drawer handles. A spontaneous attitude and a contrary vision are central to their daring approach. The Mexican Andres Quiñones can make an exquisite choker from some sticks of bamboo, a few broken guitar strings, a handful of freshwater pearls and silver wire. Working with painted latex and silver, Mirla Fernandes assembled her necklace series Heranca (Inheritance), which was inspired by the blue and white arabesques of Brazilian tiles.

3. Seeking and Expressing Identity:
These jewelry makers are creating an individualistic language, expressive of who they are and where they come from. Art, religion, money, violence, tradition, family, gender are among the themes that define their lives, uniting their collective and individual identities. Foreign-born artists, who are some how bound up with Latin America or have had a profound impact upon it, are included in this section. Alcides Fortes, for example, was born in Cape Verde, trained as a gold and silversmith in the Netherlands, and today lives and works in Mexico. He specializes in politically charged jewelry, creating such works as a necklace made out of the porcelain portraits recovered from the graves of a family killed in the Mexican revolution. The piece reveals both an admiration for Mexico’s culture and history as well as a loathing of its corruption, economic disparities, and veiled racism. By transforming the common objects of his native land into fetishized commodities, Miguel Luciano examines how American consumerism has affected Puerto Rican culture. Plantainum, for example, is a series of necklaces and pendants featuring a platinum-covered plantain. The shell is seductive and pristine, but underneath the fruit is rotting.

Figurative and abstract, conceptual and symbolic, traditional and experimental, contemporary Latin American jewelry is tremendously varied, and it is this diversity that enables it to ommunicate its ethnicity and to transcend it.

Think Again will be complemented by a wealth of public and educational programs, including lectures, workshops, interactive activities, and collections and demonstrations by artists, which are part of the Museum’s groundbreaking Open Studios effort.

Think Again: New Latin American Jewelry is organized by the Otro Diseno Foundation for Cultural Cooperation and Development is a Dutch-Mexican organization, based in the Netherlands and dedicated to the conceptualization and development of projects that promote the exchange of ideas, expertise and resources among designers and jewelry makers from Europe and Latin America. With a strong emphasis on contemporary jewelry, Otro Diseno explores the richness and diversity of design throughout the world.

The Museum of Arts and Design explores the intersection of art, design, and technique in the visual arts today. Its focus is on contemporary creativity and the ways in which artists and designers transform materials through processes ranging from the handmade to cutting-edge technologies. The Museum’s exhibition program explores and illuminates issues and ideas, highlights ingenuity and craftsmanship, and celebrates the limitless potential of materials and methods when employed by visionary artists. MAD’s permanent collection is global in scope and concentrates on art, craft, and design from 1950 to the present day. Education is central to the Museum’s mission. Its dynamic new facility features classrooms and studios for master classes, seminars, and workshops for students, families and adults.

Three open artist studios engage visitors in the creative processes of artists at work and enhance the exhibition programs. Lectures, films, performances and symposia related to the Museum’s collection and topical subjects affecting the worlds of contemporary art, design, and technique are held in the building’s 143-seat auditorium.

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