This present moment is here and now | Smithsonian Voices

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Installation photograph of This Now Moment: Creating a Better WorldRenwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2022.

Photo by Albert Ting

We are celebrating fifty years of the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum with This Now Moment: Creating a Better World, a new exhibit that showcases the dynamic landscape of American craftsmanship. The exhibition features works of art from the museums ambitious acquisition campaign, launched in 2020, which has brought more than 200 objects from leading craft artists into the national collection. The campaign focused on artwork made by a broadly representative and diverse group of American artists, including Black, Latinx, Asian American, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, and female artists. These artists created spaces of reverie, stories of perseverance, models of resilience, and methods of activism that resonate today. By activating both floors of the gallery space and highlighting a range of handcrafted media from fiber and ceramics to glass and mixed media, it asks the questions: “How did you reinvent your idea home during the global pandemic?” “How is craftsmanship relevant to your life?” To shape a better world, you must first imagine it.

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Installation photograph of This Now Moment: Creating a Better WorldRenwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2022.

Photo by Albert Ting

This present moment features 171 works of art from the museum’s permanent collection, including 135 new acquisitions on display for the first time at the Renwick. The exhibition highlights a wide range of craft mediums, from fiber and ceramics to glass and mixed media, which delves into the history of the studio craft movement while showcasing contemporary works of art. that push the boundaries of handmade into the 21st century.

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Installation photograph of This Now Moment: Creating a Better WorldRenwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2022.

Photo by Rebekah Mejorado

For the past fifty years, the Renwick has celebrated the creativity of American artisans and the vital role craftsmanship plays in modern life. “Craftsmanship has always been a measure of the present moment,” said Mary Savig, Lloyd Herman Curator of Crafts. “That’s because craftsmanship is inherently a measure of who we are – our work and our memory. With this ambitious exhibition and acquisition campaign, we seized the opportunity to document the contours of the present moment, including the global pandemic with acquisitions like face masks. The success of this business relies on the collective efforts of many, many people. Together, our efforts measure our hopes for a better world.

Some of the artists included in the exhibition are:

Bisa Butler

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Installation photograph of This Now Moment: Creating a Better WorldRenwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2022.

Photo by Albert Ting

Artist Bisa Butler explores African American life and history through her life-size portrait quilts, both honoring notable figures and bringing forgotten people to the fore.

Learn more about Harlem Hell Fighters.

Sonya Clark

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Installation photograph of This Now Moment: Creating a Better WorldRenwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2022.

Photo by Albert Ting

Through her large-scale woven replica of the Confederate truce flag used at Appomattox, Sonya Clark asks the question, “What if this truce flag was the flag we knew, instead of the Confederate battle flag?”

Learn more about Monumental.

Sharon Kerry-Harlan

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Installation photograph of This Now Moment: Creating a Better WorldRenwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2022.

Photo by Albert Ting

Kerry-Harlan reflects on current events – including the effects of the pandemic – that have affirmed the structures of racism in American society: “Despite these dire situations, resilience remains among African Americans and their allies to achieve a brighter future. .” Profile of resilience brings together materials and symbols from the past and present to create a portrait of a black American girl in this current moment, whose youthful bubble braid is crowned with the crown-like appearance of a COVID-19 particle.

Wanxin Zhang

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Installation photograph of This Now Moment: Creating a Better WorldRenwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2022.

Photo by Albert Ting

A tribute to Chinese culture, the series by Wanxin ZhangColor faces remember the colorful masks worn during opera performances to represent a range of characters, personality traits and backgrounds. The phrase “colored face” is also an intentional pun that describes Zhang’s continued experience of otherness in the country that has been his home for more than thirty years.

This Now Moment: Creating a Better Worldis on view until April 2, 2023 at the Renwick Gallery at SAAM. Discover more works from the exhibition in our online gallery and learn more about the public programs we present, including a series of virtual studio tours.

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