Probably one of the most overused yet ambiguous words within the design industry, the definition of the word 'craft' has undergone a dramatic shift since the end of the Second World War. Where in the past it was simply defined as the skilful making of objects by hand, the continually blurring boundaries between the disciplines of art, craft and design have challenged this notion.
Crafted: Objects in Flux, a new exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston sets out to explore this subject by placing craft into a larger historical context. The show 'introduces a diverse group of international artists who strive to subvert our expectations of craft within the complex field of contemporary art,' explains Malcolm Rogers, the Museum's outgoing Ann and Graham Gund Director. 'These artists use a wide range of 21st century materials, technologies and modes of display to expand notions of what a crafted object is and can be.'
Comprising over 50 pieces by 41 emerging and established artists, each of the exhibits have been made since 2003 and each incorporate materials, forms or ideas traditionally associated with the field of craft. Made using a diverse range of processes and materials – fibre, glass, ceramics, wood, metal and jewellery among others – the works are organised into three themes: 'The Re-Tooled Object', 'The Performance Object' and 'The Immersive Object'.
'Re-Tooled' objects include Anton Alvarez’s chair, which was created using his own 'Thread Wrapping Machine', and Faig Ahmed’s distorted Azerbaijani carpets, which fuse traditional carpet making techniques and patterns with his own digitally-distorted interventions.
Site-specific works in the exhibition that represent 'The Immersive Object' include Nathan Craven's 2015 'Poros' installation, where thousands of hollow ceramic elements that reference flora, sunbursts, amoebas and comic books cover the gallery's large square window, illuminated by natural light.
Other pieces show how craft is inherently 'performative' and celebrate the theatrical aspect of making. In this section, US-based Japanese artist Etsuko Ichikawa uses a blowpipe as a de facto paintbrush, trailing molten glass over dampened paper to create calligraphic lines that she calls 'Firewritings'.
As a permanent record of the exhibition's works and the themes it explores, author and Museum curator Emily Zilber has put together a publication to accompany the show. 'I hope that this exhibition will encourage visitors to expand their perception of what craft can look like and say,' she explains. 'I am thrilled to be able to present the works of so many talented artists who have made exciting new artworks through an embrace of shifting boundaries integrated with skilful making.'