Little Dreams in Glass and Metal. First nationally touring exhibition of American enameling in over 50 years revives the unsung art form at the Craft & Folk Art Museum. From January 24 to May 8, 2016.
The Craft & Folk Art Museum presents Little Dreams in Glass and Metal: Enameling in America, 1920 to the Present, the first nationally traveling exhibition of enamel arts in more than 50 years. Enameling – the art of fusing glass to metal through a high temperature firing process – is an under-documented art form rich in history, technique, and visual opulence. The exhibition explores the history of enameling in this country over the past 100 years through objects ranging from cloisonné jewelry to large abstract wall panels. Little Dreams in Glass and Metal will be on view from January 24 – May 8, 2016 and has been organized by the Los Angeles-based Enamel Arts Foundation.
Taking its title from a phrase the artist Karl Drerup used to describe the extraordinary properties of enameling – “I appreciate knowing when someone derives joy from the long hours I spend in making these little dreams out of glass and metal” – the exhibition includes 121 works from the Enamel Arts Foundation’s collection of modern and contemporary enamels. A versatile medium that artists have explored in a wide variety of formats, enameling is adaptable to small, intimate forms such as jewelry and decorative objects, or to large-scale architectural murals and wall-mounted panels.
Up to the 1960s, enamels were collected and exhibited by major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. However, with the introduction of table-top kilns and popular instructional manuals, the widespread accessibility of the medium relegated it to the level of a hobbyist’s craft. Also, as the formal simplicity of Minimalism and Conceptualism came to dominate the art world, the perceived preciousness and ornamental aesthetic of enamels lost institutional and educational support. Despite these shifts, enameling has continued to attract a small but devoted base of artists.
According to the exhibition’s co-curators Bernard N. Jazzar and Harold B. “Hal” Nelson, “The enamels field has been overlooked for far too long. Our goal as curators and as co-founders of the Enamel Arts Foundation is to shed further light on this remarkable field and to present a fuller picture of art-making practices in their richly diverse complexity from the mid 20th century to the present.”
Though enameling is considered a traditional, time-honored medium, most of the 90 enamel artists exhibited in Little Dreams produced experimental work that was in conversation with the contemporary art movements of their time. The shapes and colors in the wall panels of Southern California artist Arthur Ames (1906-1975) reveal his affinity for formal abstraction; Harold Balazs (b. 1928) incorporated the spare geometries of Bauhaus design into his enameled objects; and husband-and-wife artists Ellamarie (1913-1976) and Jackson Woolley (1910-1992) were influenced greatly by Cubism and by Pop Art and Op Art of the 1960s.