Jessica Stockholder and Ian Berry discuss their experience co-curating The Jewel Thief, an exhibition of over 50 contemporary artists.
The Jewel Thief explores new ways to think about and experience abstract art. Using divergent forms of display, the exhibition focuses attention on art’s intersection with the decorative and functional elements of architecture. Beginning in the museum’s atrium, the exhibition continues into the large Wachenheim gallery, filling the space with a diverse range of artwork, including painting, sculpture, textiles, wallpaper, chandeliers, video, and photography.
Artwork is presented through the lens of several opposing yet fluid categories that exist in our everyday lives, such as private and public, intimate and spectacular, and hot and cold. Hot might relate to feelings of passion, authenticity, expression, and the hand-made while cold might be attributed to restraint, intellectual distance, controlled execution, and the machine-made. The Jewel Thief explores how artworks negotiate the distance between these constantly shifting categories and how space affects this negotiation. Discarding the notion that abstract works are devoid of content, The Jewel Thief maintains that beauty and pleasure in artworks are full of meaning. The exhibition draws parallels between questions and attitudes seen within individual artworks and various means of display our culture traditionally uses. Defining boundaries and edges determines how we understand the limit of an object and experience. The establishment of such definitions requires a kind of invention—a shared abstraction—that alters what is possible for us to do, think, and be. These abstractions lead to the building of fences—real lines being drawn around things—and to shared understandings about the distance required for personal space.