One of the more challenging contemporary jewelry exhibitions in 2014 posed as its subject the longtime connection between jewelry and photography, with its roots extending from the earliest days of photographic development in the nineteenth century. Showing at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, director Glenn Adamson hailed it as “the first rigorous survey and exploration of the deep and multifaceted relationship between these two mediums.” Whether it succeeded as a rigorous survey and exploration is an unresolved question, but the exhibition certainly met the criterion of bringing together accomplished and innovative contemporary jewelers who have brought to bear photographic elements or concepts in their works, making the experience visibly intriguing and satisfying.
The curatorial prize for how the fusion of photography and jewelry have created a unique synergy belongs to Ursula Ilse-Neuman, the Museum of Arts and Design curator of jewelry and with the museum for over two decades. She took on the difficult task of refining the artistic possibilities to an ultimate selection of one hundred seventy works of some eighty artists drawn from over twenty countries. Some of the aesthetic choices showed photographs of family and friends, and so conveyed highly personal, emotional or nostalgic themes. Some of the photographs contained anonymous people, many no longer alive, bringing an unsettling contextual ambiguity and sense of displacement to the viewing experience.
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