The modernist jewelers in the United States who practiced their craft from the 1930s through the 1960s were pretty emphatic about their rejection of the styles that had come before. Victorian jewelry was dismissed as too decorative, Art Nouveau pieces were deemed too fussy, and the Art Deco aesthetic was considered excessively rigid.
Modernist jewelers felt they had more in common with painters, sculptors, and other modern artists of the day. Their ambitious goal was to create one-of-a-kind works of art that people could wear.
One of the early champions and practitioners of the form was Sam Kramer, who, like many of his contemporaries, lived, worked, and sold his creations in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Kramer worked primarily in silver, but he was also adept at fashioning rings, earrings, and pins out of copper and found objects, including moose teeth, buttons, fossils, and ancient coins. Sometimes Kramer used semi-precious stones such as garnets or opals in his surreal, geometric, or biomorphic pieces.
Another unofficial leader of the modernist jewelry movement was Kramer’s neighbor Art Smith. His jewelry ranged from simple silver neck rings to biomorphic pieces that drew from African motifs. While Smith made small pieces such as cuff links and earrings, many of his best works were large enough to wrap the body, as if the human form was the mere backdrop for his creations. His vintage copper wrist cuffs, especially the “jazz” cuffs with musical notes applied to their outside surfaces, are highly collectible.
Boomerangs, straight lines intersecting curves, and atomic-age shapes typified Ed Wiener’s work. Sometimes a pair of silver earrings resembling deformed hourglasses were adorned with a single pearl; other times, a cat’s-eye agate would be placed in the center of a piece, as if to give his inanimate objects the semblance of a human face.
Outside New York there was Betty Cooke, who worked in the Bauhaus mode in Baltimore. Her jewelry was composed of geometric shapes and characterized by a strong sense of order, wh...
Another Bauhaus acolyte was Margaret De Patta, whose work reflected the profound influence of Bauhaus teacher Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, with whom she studied. Meanwhile, out in San Francisco, Peter Macchiarini looked to African masks and Cubism for inspiration. Brass, copper, and silver were common materials, along with opals, agates, and wood.
In Scandinavia during the 1940s and ’50s, a parallel movement was underway. Henning Koppel and Nanna Ditzel were two notable Georg Jensen designers, whose silver necklaces sporting amoeba-like and teardrop shapes combined the perfection of Danish silversmithing with an interest in natural, even primal, forms.
Later, in 1960s Finland, Bjorn Weckstrom married solid silver and polished chunks of acrylic to create rings, bracelets, and pendants that were at once space age and organic.
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Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale: Celebrates 15 Years of Modern LovePalm Springs Life, January 30th
However, the 10-day modernism lovefest is also the home of one of the country's largest marketplaces for 20th century furnishings — the Palm Springs Modernism Show, featuring decorative objects, ceramics, sculpture, pottery, art, vintage clothing...Read more
Celebrating Images of a Long-Gone FloridaNew York Times, January 29th
For the centennial of the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego, museums there are bringing out souvenir jewelry and pennants and plaster ornaments from demolished buildings. (Exhibitions are listed at Save Our Heritage Organization's website, ...Read more
What's happening on the local art scene this weekThe Intelligencer, January 28th
Jim's of Lambertville, “The Thrilla in Lambertvilla XXV”; through Saturday; features Pennsylvania impressionist and modernist paintings; works by greats including Redfield, Garber, Schofield, Coppedge, Folinsbee, Leith-Ross, Andrew Wyeth and more. 6...Read more
ABQ exhibits push artistic boundariesAlbuquerque Journal, January 24th
The exhibition argues that with the post-World War II boom years, an influx of California modernists established, then crystallized, a progressive vision leaving the Santa Fe and Taos art colonies a shadow of romantic sunsets and pretty pueblos...Read more
2015 Winter Antiques Show Showcases 3000 Years Of Timeless Art And DesignInsurance News Net, January 23rd
By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Insurance Business Weekly -- Ancient Egyptian bronze and monumental modernist Bertoia sculpture, John Pierpont Morgan's chairs and Joan Crawford's jewelry, and paintings by celebrated American artists William ...Read more
At Armory's Winter Antiques Show, Volumes of VarietyNew York Times, January 22nd
With 73 purveyors of rare and remarkable objects, from ancient Egyptian sculpture to Modernist painting, it offers innumerable opportunities to encounter and learn about aspects of painting, decorative arts, furniture, jewelry or glass that might be...Read more
Have a Perfect Beach Vacation in Jose Ignacio, UruguayHuffington Post, January 21st
The Vik group's original beach property has an extremely modernist feel, all glass facades, fire pits, and artwork, most notably a James Turrell light installation and a Zaha Hadid-designed table in the main house. .... The mid-century modern, two...Read more
New Mini Meems Collection from M33Ms JewelryHONOLULUMagazine.com, January 20th
The latest in sibling finery to hit our radar is Mini Meems, little sister to architectural, modernist line M33Ms Jewelry by local designer Emiko Miyazawa. Sold exclusively at the MORI boutique in Ward Village Shops, this collection is inspired by...Read more