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Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery

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Discovering the conceptual jewelry of one groundbreaking jewelry artist—Joan Parcher—helped metalsmith Jennifer Crupi reconsider the connection between her work and the body.
hand wearing a set of brass knuckles with two protruding crystal horns
Devil Horns Crystal Brass Knuckles (Lefty), 2015, Debra Baxter

Open July 1, 2016 - Ongoing

The permanent collection returns to the Renwick Gallery with a dynamic new presentation of 80+ objects celebrating craft as a discipline and an approach to living differently in the modern world. The installation includes iconic favorites alongside new acquisitions made during the museum’s renovation, which will be displayed at the museum for the first time. Nora Atkinson, The Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, selected the objects and conceived the innovative presentation.

Atkinson’s arrangement breaks from typical display formats based on chronology or material to instead focus on the interconnectivity of objects and the overlapping stories they tell. The installation does away with hierarchical distinctions and the idea of the curator’s voice as absolute authority, instead presenting works that engender ever-evolving associations and interpretations. Objects are loosely thematically organized to mimic an analog version of the Web, using an associative approach derived from the way we navigate today’s “hyperlinked” world. Visitors are encouraged to find their own path through a vast network of possibilities that highlight explicit connections as well as subtle, unexpected resonances among the artworks on view.

In selecting both pioneering and contemporary pieces, Atkinson also explores the underlying current of craft as a balancing, humanistic force in the face of an ever-more efficiency-driven, virtual world. The exhibition highlights the evolution of the craft field as it transitions into a new phase at the hands of contemporary artists, showcasing the activist values, optimism, and uninhibited approach of today’s young artists, which in some way echoes the communal spirit and ideology of the pioneers of the American Studio Craft Movement in their heyday.

The artworks range from the 1930’s through today and span numerous media. New acquisitions such as John Grade’s Shoal (Bone Shoal Sonance), Judith Schaechter’s The Birth of Eve, Marie Watt’s Edson’s Flag, and Akio Takamori’s Woman and Child make their debut in the gallery while seminal works including Wendell Castle’s Ghost Clock, Karen LaMonte’s Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery, Albert Paley’s Portal Gates, and Lenore Tawney’s Box of Falling Stars return to view.



The Henry Luce Foundation and the Windgate Charitable Foundation generously support the reinstallation of the Renwick’s permanent collection.

McDonald’s Neverland paper bag and colored pencil

Notice—Forest (Autumn)

linen, cotton, and recycled thread

Washington, DC, Foreclosure Quilt

black ash and white oak

Quatrefoil Lidded Shaker Cat Head Basket with Handle


Leg Splint

cotton and rayon

Ancient Writing

sweetgrass, bulrush, pine needles, and palmetto fronds

Gullah Fanner Basket

bleached maple, paint, dye, stain, and resin

The Running

ebonized redwood burl and ebony

Slashed Millstone

glass with steel stand


reed splints

Fibonacci 5

graphite, sterling silver, and stainless steel

Graphite Pendulum Pendant



Media: earthenware and glaze

Temple's Gate Pass

media: flash glass, vitreous paint, silver stain, and copper foil

The Birth of Eve

media: earthenware and glaze

Gold Pickle Jar

media: maple wood

Cut, Flamed, Spalted

suit: cotton, silk, bamboo, wool, and acrylic blended yarn. Mannequin: basswood, acrylic paint, gouache, glass, pewter, and walnut

Biodiversity Reclamation Suit: Carolina Parakeet

Knit Batman Suit

Batman 2

Media: stoneware with glazes and decals

204 of Thousands

ceramic scultpure

Hole in One

media: glass

Blanket Cylinder Series

cotton landscape of stars in Saigon, Vietnam on Lunar New Year, January 31, 1968

2:45 am Until Sunrise on Tet