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treachery of material

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft        |        January 26 - April 15, 2018       |       Photography by Sarah Darro, Scott Cartwright, Michael Crowder, Julia Maria Künnap

Treachery of Material: The Surrealist Impulse in Craft presents artists Michael Crowder and Julia Maria Künnap who employ Surrealist strategies in their approach to both process and material. Surrealism, a movement which championed the subconscious by conjuring the fantastic and uncanny imagery of dreams, has maintained strong cultural relevance since its introduction in the 1920s. Art historians have attributed its significance and staying power to the diversity of its artistic media as well as its function as a reactionary force against oppressive power structures and rational thought. This exhibition features enchanting sculptural objects, made from cast glass, fine metals and gemstones, along with nontraditional materials like ash and soap, to highlight the unexpected relationship between Surrealism and craft as well as demonstrate the contemporary and continual significance of Surrealism in visual culture.

Treachery of Material aligns Surrealism with craft movements, such as American Studio Craft, and traces the lineage of their relationship through this selection of contemporary artworks. Craft, like Surrealism, has encompassed a range of materials and traditions that have proven difficult to categorize comprehensively and both movements have been positioned outside the traditional bounds of the fine art canon. These aspects that have made Surrealism difficult to classify have also led to its pervasiveness and endurance in American culture, making it a mainstay not only in art museums but in ad campaigns, films, fashion, and household objects as well. Many Surrealist masters, notably Salvador Dalí, Méret Oppenheim, Max Ernst, and Pedro Friedeberg, made forays into craft media during their careers, producing work in jewelry and metals, fiber and furniture. This expression of Surrealist concepts through craft has been carried on by contemporary artists working in a range of materials and traditions, from ancient carpet weaving and stone cutting to ceramics and glass.