50 years is an aeon in the art world, and a powerful increment of time by which to mark change in contemporary ideas. The book Objects: USA 2020 (The Monacelli Press, 2020) seeks just such a reckoning, by first revisiting and recapping the influential exhibition, Objects: USA, presented in 1969 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and then supplementing it with a modern installment that visits a new cohort of contemporary makers to examine their relationship with craft.
The publication functions as an expansive history lesson, a time capsule, and a future vision — one where, hearteningly, there seems to be much less need to distinguish between artists and craftspeople as there was when the first iteration of Objects hit the scene. Indeed, some of the “makers” profiled in the 1970 exhibition — such as Michele Oka Doner and Ron Nagle — continue to practice and present work without facing any question of its status as art. Likewise, many of the artists presented in the 2020 edition simply identify and present work as artists, rather than being relegated to craftspeople or makers identified only by their media choices.
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[Image above: Katie Stout, “Triple Squat (detail)” (2018), painted and gilded ceramic (image courtesy R & Company and the Monacelli Press)]