By Osman Can Yerebakan
At the tail end of the 1960s, the Museum of Contemporary Craft (currently Museum of Art and Design) director Paul J. Smith and dealer Lee Nordness decided to portray what R & Company co-founder Evan Snyderman today calls “an investigation that cemented dozens of craft artists’ careers.” The duo embarked on a three-year cross-country journey from Ohio to Nebraska in quest of “a movement happening with minimal outlet outside of art galleries,” according to Snyderman. "OBJECTS: USA" opened at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1969, including works by 253 artists with the backdrop of the Vietnam War, Nixon administration, and Civil Rights Movement. The exhibition traveled to 22 national museums and 11 more in Europe—its splash reached beyond the art circles, as even far as the "Today Show." Snyderman, who is among the organizers of R & Company’s upcoming exhibition dedicated to this groundbreaking survey, tells Interior Design that "OBJECTS: USA" introduced “a uniquely American genre of artists firsthand making the work as opposed to the European tradition of a separation between artist and fabricator.”
"OBJECTS: USA 2020" features 100 artists sharply divided between those from the original exhibition and contemporary names whose practices stem from the craft tradition. Snyderman was joined by design curators Glenn Adamson and James Zemaitis, the gallery's director of museum relations. for the selection of the historical works and, again, Adamson and Object & Thing founder Abby Bangser for contemporary pieces. After a decade of discussions and nearly three years of planning, the team found the solution to present a contemporary portrait of craft in a biennial-like approach. “Over five decades ago, Smith and Nordness took their survey as a diversity challenge,” says Snyderman. The original show had more women artists than any comparable survey at the time, in addition to a remarkable—still underwhelming—number of artists of color for its time. A tumultuous sociopolitical landscape today makes "OBJECTS USA:2020" an incredibly timely look at the craft movement in art, as notions of inclusion, sustainability, and labor profoundly resonate with an urgency of self-expression.