Madison professors ’Metal’ with definition of art

The current exhibit on display at the Chazen Art Museum, 'Metalsmiths and Mentors: Fred Fenster and Eleanor Moty' offers something that is not usually reserved for art museums: practicality. Almost all of the pieces on display in the exhibit, now opened an extra week until July 30, seem like something you would see under glass'but at Bed Bath and Beyond or William Sonoma, not the Chazen. 




As the title of the exhibit says, the majority of the works present are that of Fred Fenster and Eleanor Moty two emeritus professors of the UW-Madison arts metals program who ran it from 1972 until 2001. The rest of the exhibit includes pieces crafted by former masters of fine arts as well as the current heads of the metals department, Lisa Gralnick and Kim Cridler. 




The large collection of work by Fenster presented here demonstrates a very practical, minimalist sense of style. The works contain such everyday objects as ladles, teapots, jewelry boxes and pots. These utensils are not quite like those you would find at Pottery Barn, though: the ladles have woven, twisted handles and the teapot is made out of nothing but 90 degree angles and perfect triangles.  




Fenster's talent especially shines in the examples of his Judaic works, a post-modern menorah, Torah pointers, Sabbath candles and Kiddush cups. His metal of choice'pewter'is most expertly crafted here, dazzling compared to the other displays. Inlaid turquoise and amethyst in one of the Torah pointers is so expertly laid one would expect to see it in a temple, not a museum. 




The exhibit's second namesake, Eleanor Moty, follows in much the same paradigm of Fenster, giving us objects that have practical uses'things that belong in your purse, not in a humidity-controlled room. While Fenster has only a few examples of (beautiful) jewelry, Moty is the obvious expert in this craft. The rings and brooches (of which there are 22 on display) demonstrate, once again, the practicality persistent in this exhibit.  




Due to the more pure aesthetics associated with brooches, they allow Moty to toy with more variations of color, texture and materials.  




The majority of the rest of the exhibit, despite a few stumbles due to the relative obscurity of the sculpture, is exquisitely handled as well. The influence from Fenster and Moty is apparent from each prot??g'??s work. An example of this is found in the work shown by Jon Michael Route, particularly a teapot and a piece consisting of three goblets. The subject is a clear take off from Fenster in its domesticity, although Route inflects his own twist. The teapot, with jagged lines and ventilation holes, is reminiscent of a sort of decrepit Americana piece, looking more like the Tin Man on heroine than something on the brunch table.  




Need a practical reason to come? The Chazen is on campus, it's free and it is an air-conditioned place to spend an hour during the hot summer months ahead.

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