“CONDITIONS of ORNAMENT”
Bruce Metcalf has long been recognized as a pivotal figure in Studio Art Jewelry. He is a consummate maker; his work is meticulous in the crafting of his material choices and a master in balancing form, surface and color.
Metcalf’s designs are resolute; often steeped in historical context. In this body of work, the English Decorative Arts and Crafts aesthetic is addressed. A direct inspiration can be found in designs produced for William Morris by his daughter, May Morris. Her highly stylized compositions were informed by nature’s patterns of winding vines and leaves. With these, Morris’s vision brought nature inside, adoring walls, bedding, dinnerware, and his elaborate wallpapers and fabrics.
In “Conditions of Ornament”, Metcalf has taken to task how, through industrial growth, modern technology, and our stream-lined, fast-paced lifestyles, the subtle nuances of everyday adornment have, for the most part, disappeared. Forgotten is the artistry and refinement created by hand, a tool and time. Missing is the visceral stimulation we experience by way of layered patterns and embellishments, the lyrical sound of chased forms, reticulated and articulated. Yet, in the current mode of making, the beauty once found in the details of everyday objects and surfaces is relegated to second position to that of function. The subtle nuances found in patterns and decorated surfaces are wiped clean.
Metcalf presents us with small wall boxes and windows, each carrying a mounted brooch. Almost relic-like or condensed icons of fashion, they represent the lost language of beauty. These pieces pay homage to a by-gone era. Respecting tradition, Metcalf pushes us forward with his complex technical skills and superb designs. He’s adorning our environment, while at the same time presenting one with the ability to detach the object and adorn the body. Subtly, poignantly, completely and unconditionally, Metcalf speaks through visual language.
– Bruce Hoffman, Curator-