Here’s the concept: Eight craft-based artists are paired with professors of art history or theory. The duos meet, have free-flowing discussions about the work, and then the historian writes a reflective, critical essay. The art is the call. The essay is the response.

The result is a show where large wooden sculptures mingle with textile and text-based works, jewelry and teapots. While the techniques and mediums employed are craft staples (hand-sewing, dollhouse-like woodwork, drilling in plastic and painting on porcelain) the work is highly conceptual. Imagine yourself at a forward-thinking, minimalist flea market, because this exhibit lives within that kind of paradoxical universe. No quilts allowed.

Walking though the exhibit is dizzying. To bring up a range of critical themes, the work on display spans the spectrum of craft art. Furthermore, in this relatively small space, each artist only features a couple of finished products. Next to each is just an excerpt from the corresponding critical essay. Full texts will be available online on August 18th now (see update at bottom), along with other multimedia tools expanding on the artist-professor dialogues.
This means that the physical exhibit is in some ways just a tease to pull you into this larger conversation. If you’re looking for a heavy dose of straight-up materials and technique, be warned: Call + Response could just as well be housed in a library as a museum...

It’s esoteric to say the least, and an unusual tack for a craft museum to take. It veers from a craft for craft’s sake approach, but fits with this museum’s recent developments and, you could say, maturation. Perhaps this is why curator Namita Gupta Wiggers insisted that the professors involved in this experiment have worked for ten years or less. She wanted to capture the momentous changes she’s seen in the craft world over the last decade.

Call + Response is definitely thought provoking, but unless you're familiar with world of contemporary craft you'll have to put some work into it. If you're new to this scene, I suggest taking one of tours with animated curator Wiggers (July 7th or October 6th at noon). The museum is free, so you can check it out at no risk. If it strikes your curiosity, the Museum has painstakingly prepared resources to help you delve further into the churning head of the craft world. Unfortunately, the in-house discussions don't start for a month and the full website won't be complete for two months. I wish these contextual elements were ready right now and could be integrated into the museum-going experience, as per my previous rant, but in these tough economic times...I'll just have to shut up.

UPDATE!! (6/30/09) Full essays are available online and I am going to read them now! The museum also has copies available for your perusal. Thanks, and happy arting.