Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Power of making

This exhibition at the V&A is a celebration of contemporary craftsmanship. I have seen it three times now. My first visit took place soon after it opened, it was packed with people and it was difficult to see the exhibits let alone read the labels and there was no list of exhibits – the handout was a glossary of craft techniques and processes without indicating to which exhibit they referred.

My initial reaction was annoyance that the items were not being given adequate space and there was no list of what there was to see. A good example was Susie MacMurray’s ‘Widow’, a black dress pierced with long steel pins, which was in a case with other ‘garments’. In contrast, in her recent solo exhibition a similar dress ‘A mixture of frailties’ had a room to itself, presumably because in that case it was being treated as art rather than craft.

I later read that the curator of Power of making had been inspired by the way objects are displayed in the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, based on their function and how they solve a particular problem. As a contemporary cabinet of curiosities Power of making is successful. It includes a range of crafts and shows how those skills can be used in a contemporary way to make functional and decorative objects.

My subsequent visits to the exhibition were more successful than the first, mainly because the crowds were not so large and it was possible to spend more time looking at the exhibits. There were several fascinating things on show and some of my favourites were ‘Alphabet’ a series of pencil stubs with the alphabet sculpted from their lead points by Dalton Ghetti (shown in the photo), ‘Physalis earrings’ by Nora Fok, and Susie MacMurray’s dress ‘Widow’. Many of the exhibits were ingenious as well as beautifully made, hence my third visit, but I would have liked to have had the time and space to look at them in more detail.

No comments: