Kiff Slemmons / Starting Points
Gallery Loupe @ Heller Gallery
Exhibition: Nov. 20-23
Artist Reception: Thurs. Nov. 20, 6-8 pm
Conversation with Kiff Slemmons and Glenn Adamson, Director of MAD. Sun. Nov. 23, 5 pm
Heller Gallery, 303 10th Ave. NYC
Gallery Loupe is proud to present a new series of jewelry objects by Kiff Slemmons. These masterful works will be exhibited in a unique installation at Heller Gallery, located in Manhattan's Chelsea arts district. Inspired by prehistoric and tribal tool fragments, the pieces suggest the intimacy of both unilateral function and personal wear. Displayed en masse, on simple platforms, they recall archeological artifacts grouped together after a dig.
Celebrating hand-held tools, from the stone arrowheads of Neolithic cultures to the cell phones of today's technology, Slemmons looks to these devices as symbols of a connection between past and present populations. She employs the format of brooches, pendants, and necklaces to illustrate how functionality can morph into ritual, regardless of era or region, and in so doing chart the human condition. Among the most telling examples in the series are pendants in the guise of place settings - weaponry transformed into cutlery. "I have torqued the function of the stones as killing tools," states Slemmons, "to tools for making, building, offering - and perhaps at the same time arguing for the cutting edge to coincide with the esthetic edge."
In these pieces, Slemmons also questions habitual notions of worth afforded the precious stones traditionally used in jewelry. Stone, she tells us, is the oldest material on earth. In mounting actual Neolithic stone points in silver bezels, she asks why they are considered of less consequence than diamonds as elements appropriate for jewelry, given their intrinsic beauty as well as cultural significance. Maintaining no hegemony as to materials suitable for jewelry-making, she utilizes both the time-honored as well as the avant-garde. Often incorporating ready-mades, Slemmons' works contain multiple layers of both substance and meaning, sometimes manifested by witty visual puns. Informed by Surrealist and Dada concepts and iconography, Constructivist structure and composition, and the evocative musings of German writer W. G. Sebald, she possesses a remarkable intelligence, along with, as she puts it, "obsessive observation," clearly manifested in the cultural relevance of her output.
Self-taught in metalsmithing, Slemmons holds a Bachelor's Degree from University of Iowa, where she majored in art and French, studying for a year at the Sorbonne in Paris. An American jeweler of international repute, she enjoyed a mid-career retrospective, The Thought of Things: Jewelry by Kiff Slemmons, at the Palo Alto Art Center in Palo Alto, California in 2000, which traveled to the Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii. Re:Pair and Imperfection, a traveling exhibition that originated at the Chicago Cultural Center in 2007, was conceived by Slemmons as a cooperative effort by several jewelers and herself to combine and reconfigure pieces that eluded solo resolution. For over a decade, she has worked with female artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico on jewelry projects involving indigenous handmade paper.
Slemmons is represented in numerous museum collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Arts and Design in New York, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington; Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina; Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House, Honolulu, Hawaii; and Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England.