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Robert Baines:

Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies

July 20, 2018 – October 7, 2018

Organized by Gallery Loupe for Contemporary Art Jewelry, Montclair, New Jersey, in collaboration with the Arkansas Arts Center

Robert Baines: Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies celebrates the dazzling and witty work of the master goldsmith, craftsman and scholar.

A leading scholar in the field of archaeometallurgy, Baines has studied and revived Bronze Age goldsmith techniques in service of international jewelry scholarship. His study of the ancient techniques also has informed his artistic practice for more than 40 years. In Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies, Baines assembles a fictitious jewelry narrative, captivating not only in the creativity and craftsmanship evident in the works, but also in the artist’s fascination with the enigma of jewelry as material evidence of authentic history.

Baines’ jewelry references the design vocabulary of historic European metalworking techniques in a completely distinct aesthetic. By using ancient techniques in playful new ways, Baines challenges the mythology present in contemporary culture. By combining precious metals and contemporary materials, he pushes the boundaries of what wearable art can be.

Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies features 76 works organized into three narrative arcs – Armbandits, Collecting, and The Official History of the Compact Disc – each presenting jewelry as material evidence. The jewelry, however, should be viewed with caution – the artist’s linear “histories” are rife with myth, riddle, puzzle and possible subversions of their origin. In Armbandits, Baines explores how an 11th century Islamic armlet in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art may have been “misunderstood, misinterpreted and become a fantasy of influence of further design,” ranging from armbands, bracelets, and finger rings to a hair clip and buttons. He even posits that the design of the popular Australian VoVo® marshmallow biscuit is “a result of a series of misinterpretations” of the armlet.

In Collecting, Baines curates “the smallest collection of large jewelry in the world.” Assembled both for the significance of their scale – large and small – the works are fabricated in complex detail and contain multiple, intricate components. In The Official History of the Compact Disc, Baines argues how the “B.C. and the A.D. of the C.D. is a fractured historical narrative of the evolution of the now common compact disc (CD)” as seen through “its repetitive manifestations in a linear jewelry history.” The section contains a variety of disc-shaped brooches, including an early and very complex Etruscan gold disc said to be from the fifth century B.C. and concludes with the most technically complex work, Brooch, Meaner Than Yellow. Between them is a variety of brooches featuring a menagerie of animals, including felines, giraffes, and rabbits.

One of the most prominent contemporary goldsmiths in the world, Baines is the recipient of numerous international awards, including the Bayerischer State Prize (2005) and Friedrich Becker Prize (2008) in Germany; and the Cicely and Colin Rigg Craft Award (1997), the richest craft prize in Australia. He holds a Ph.D. from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), where he is a professor of gold and silversmithing. In 2010, he was designated a Living Treasure: Master of Australian Craft. Baines’s astonishingly detailed metalwork, which reflects his studies in archaeometallurgy, embodies ancient techniques such as linear wirework and granulation but with the scale, grandeur, and irony of current practice. His jewelry is contained in countless international museum collections, including: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Powerhouse Museum, Sidney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Schmuckmuseum, Pforzheim, Germany; Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg; and Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; among others.

Featured Work from the Exhibition


Robert Baines, Australian (Melbourne, Australia, 1949 - ), Etruscan Disc, Greek, circa 5th century B.C., 2008, 25/32 x 2 ¾ x 2 ¾ inches (20 x 70 x 70 millimeters). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Loupe, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Robert Baines.

Robert Baines, Australian (Melbourne, Australia, 1949 - ), Brooch, Post War High Society, circa. 1950, 2010, silver, enamel, glass, electroplate, 1 3/16 x 2 61/64 x 2 61/64 inches (30 x 75 x 75 millimeters). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Loupe, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Robert Baines..

Robert Baines, Australian (Melbourne, Australia, 1949 - ), Brooch, Compact Disc, circa 2000, 2010, silver, glass, powder coat, electroplate, compact disc, 1 3/8 x 3 5/32 x 3 5/32 inches (35 x 80 x 80 millimeters). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Loupe, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Robert Baines.

Robert Baines, Australian (Melbourne, Australia, 1949 - ), Armlet copy, said to be Iranian (Gurgan), circa 11th century, 2009-2010, silver-gilt, 4 21/64 x 3 35/64 x 3 35/64 inches (110 x 90 x 90 millimeters). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Loupe, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Robert Baines.

Robert Baines, Australian (Melbourne, Australia, 1949 - ), Brooch, Meaner Than Yellow, 2008, silver, powder coat, electroplate, paint, 2 61/64 x 4 23/32 x 4 23/32 inches (75 x 120 x 120 millimeters). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Loupe, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Robert Baines.

Robert Baines, Australian (Melbourne, Australia, 1949 - ), Brooch, Post War High Society, circa 1950, 2010, silver, enamel, glass, powder coat, 1 7/32 x 3 5/8 x 3 5/8 inches (31 x 92 x 92 millimeters). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Loupe, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Robert Baines.

Robert Baines, Australian (Melbourne, Australia, 1949 - ), Disc, Greek, circa 4th century B.C., 2008, gold, enamel, 4/25 x 3/4 x 3/4 inches (4 x 19 x 19 millimeters) Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Loupe, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Robert Baines.

Robert Baines, Australian (Melbourne, Australia, 1949 - ), Ornament Parthian, circa 3rd century, 2009, silver-gilt, 1 31/32 x 3 47/64 x 3 47/64 inches (50 x 95 x 95 millimeters). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Loupe, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Robert Baines.

Robert Baines, Australian (Melbourne, Australia, 1949 - ), Brooch, Giraffe, Flemish, circa 1620, 2010, silver, 13/64 x 1 3/16 x 1 3/16 inches (5 x 30 x 30 millimeters). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Loupe, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Robert Baines.

Sponsored by


Marion W. Fulk

Alan DuBois Contemporary Craft Fund

Ginanne Graves Long

 

Austrailian Government | Austrailia Council for the Arts

Arkansas Arts Center programs are supported in part by: the City of Little Rock; the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau; the City of North Little Rock; Arkansas Arts Center Board of Trustees; and the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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