Scene of the Crime
SEP. 30, 2018 - JAN. 13, 2019
Keeler & Gasparrini Galleries
Essays by Glenn Adamson &
Photography by Jim Escalante
Lisa Gralnick is the 2018 Master Metalsmith, the next in a long line of extraordinary artists celebrated for their artistic, educational and innovative contributions propelling the field of metalsmithing forward. Her retrospective exhibition borrows from the collections of major institutions and private lenders, as well as Lisa's personal collection, to chronicle multiple series of jewelry, sculpture and installation.
From her early jewelry work in gold and enamel in the 1980s to her current large-scale sculpture and installation work in Scene of the Crime, Gralnick has always worked with a variety of materials, processes and forms. Her work can be divided into distinct series, such as her Reliquaries or Black Acrylic series. A series is a unified, cohesive and coherent set of artwork. Before beginning a new series, Gralnick begins with prodigious research. Each series is a study in concepts and showcases a mastery of skill. No material is ever taken for granted or used lightly. Once she feels a series is complete, she often changes direction and works in entirely different forms or materials. Gralnick has worked in acrylic, gold, silver, enamel, plaster and ceramic. To summarize her philosophy of materials, she has stated,
“…I became very, very conscious now that every single material you choose to work with carries a baggage with it, and you need to take that very seriously. And I talk about that with my students, even just in general, about being a metalsmith…if they want to work in metal. And they don’t have to work in metal, they can make work out of other materials, but metal brings a whole lot of baggage into an object; and that you shouldn’t assume, just because…you’re in this metals department, that you have to work in metals, and you shouldn’t make that decision cavalierly. It should…all be part of whether or not it supports what you’re trying to do.”1
Around 2003 Gralnick began a series to explore several issues through the lens of one material: gold. The Gold Standard consists of three parts. The first part of the series, Commodification and Sensible Economy, includes plaster castings made from rubber molds of recognizable objects, such as a violin or computer. The monetary value of the object molded was translated into a quantity of gold based on the market price of gold on the day she began the piece. She then fabricated a part of the plaster casting using that precise amount of gold. In this way, the value of gold is compared to the object cast in plaster. The second part, Phenomenology and Substantialism, explores the life of a gold object. As one of the most highly recyclable materials in the world, most of the gold seen today was once part of a different object. Each sculpture in this series is a plaster cast of gold objects, which Gralnick purchased from friends, colleagues and strangers who saw her ads in the local newspaper. What you see is the ghost of a gold object that she then melted down and recycled for use in the third part of the series, Transubstantiation and the Historicized Object, which focuses on the history of gold and its use in literature and myth. Gralnick used the recycled gold from the second part of the series to create new gold objects with invented histories. These objects challenge our ideas of known history and offer a dialogue about authenticity and truth.
Gralnick’s newest body of work is, again, a departure from her previous series, The Gold Standard. As with many of her series, life events prompted a change in direction and resulted in Scene of the Crime. After the death of her mother, she and her siblings went through the common and painful process of dividing up her belongings. One of the most visceral experiences for Gralnick was going through her mother’s jewelry. The weight of the emotion experienced inspired her to create jewelry on a huge scale, all of which fits inside an enormous pink jewelry box. Gralnick’s love of old detective stories by authors like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie was also a prominent influence. In these stories, jewelry is often used as a clue or a “Macguffin” -- a device to move the plot along. The large, sculptural jewelry spills out of the box as one might see in a crime scene photograph. Despite the large scale and materials used in this newest series, it remains closely related to the history of jewelry and specifically to its use as a display of status or wealth, which reflects Gralnick’s view that we are living through a time in history where the government is run by very wealthy and corrupt individuals.