Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection

June 6 – September 12, 2009

Ornament as Art provides an extraordinary look at the global innovations in contemporary jewelry over the past four decades, when a dramatic shift occurred in how ornament and jewelry were perceived. Helen Williams Drutt collected outstanding examples by leading artists, often spanning the entirety of their career,” said Cindi Strauss, Curator at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The MFAH acquired the Drutt Collection in 2002 and has organized the nationally traveling exhibition.

Ornament as Art presents a chronological overview of studio art jewelry featuring key works from the 1960s to the present by artists from fifteen countries. The exhibition also explores three distinct themes: jewelry as a means of telling a narrative; the influence of twentieth century art movements such as Bauhaus, constructivism, minimalism, and conceptualism on jewelry artists; and the interaction between jewelry and the body as an act of performance. All of these ideas challenge viewers to look beyond traditional definitions of jewelry and to view these objects as art in their own right.

The exhibition features a slate of international and national jewelry artists, as well as works by several Northwest artists, such as Ken Cory, Laurie Hall, Ron Ho, Mary Lee Hu, Keith Lewis, Kiff Slemmons, Ramona Solberg, Don Tompkins, Merrily Tompkins, and Nancy Worden. In addition to jewelry, Ornament as Art showcases drawings, watercolors, sketchbooks, and sculptural constructions. Audiences can observe relationships between artists and geographic regions and how various aspects of the field grew in opposition or in response to others.

Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection has been organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.