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Craft Contemporary, Los Angeles. Craft as a conveyor of progress

The museum serves as a breeding ground for the community to develop the discourse surrounding the dexterity of craft in modern times

Craft Contemporary in Los Angeles

Across the street from the infamous La Brea Tar Pits, on an otherwise sterile looking block of Wilshire Boulevard, you can spot the intricately painted yellow and black façade of an out-of-place Neo-Georgian building. This is Craft Contemporary. Built in 1930 by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, this mixed-use commercial space has lived through many businesses.

But, in 1965 it fell into the hands of Edith Robinson Wyle and Bette Chase. It then became The Egg and The Eye. A restaurant and gallery whose emphasis was on two things. Craft and omelets. It wasn’t long until Wyle ditched the eggs and founded the Craft and Folk Art Museum. Later rebranded as Craft Contemporary.

According to Craft Contemporary’s Manager of Communications and Exhibitions, Caroline Ellen Liou, «Wyle’s emphasis was not necessarily on native arts, but rather, global craft. We look for ways to showcase makers who explore how these processes and materials can be used in new or innovative ways. Both technically and conceptually».

Craft Contemporary’s name change in 2011 symbolizes the dynamic and modern capacity for the world of craft. The aim is to bridge the gap between folk and modern. «We wanted to communicate to the public that craft can be a forward thinking, contemporary, art form. One that is both a noun and a verb».

Holly Jerger, Museum Curator

Museum Curator Holly Jerger communicates this shift from folk to contemporary. Her aim is to put emphasis on «process, material, and engagement with art historical discourse». Essentially, the craft in Craft Contemporary. This focus on craft naturally calls forth artists whose work exists «as a field that presents an alternative to the institutional white cube», with exhibitions that have ranged from the paper transformations of Echiko Ohira to the steel installations of Beatriz Cortez. 

Currently, Craft Contemporary’s second clay biennale is on exhibit with pieces from a variety of artists. Their aim is to examine the relationship between the human body and clay. By doing so, they open up the conversation surrounding clay in antiquity to clay in modern day. In this way the museum serves as a breeding ground for discourse surrounding the dexterity of craft in modernity.

Not only can you see innovations in the art world throughout the museums two stories of gallery space and external courtyard. But also according to Liou, «Craft Contemporary is a place where you can easily run into our staff or exhibiting artists, and chat with them about anything. From sharing your experience and opinions to learning more about the artist’s process».

The communal and collaborative nature of the museum is a defining marker of its purpose within the community. The museum provides inclusive and diverse programs for all ages. Aside from their more academic offerings, such as lecture series, artist talks, and discussion panels. From Teen Programs to cocktail-hour type CraftNights, which aim to inspire engagement with craft both within and beyond the exhibits. 

Lampoon review: exhibitions at Craft Contemporary

The museum’s cooperative mentality has also bolstered its relationships throughout Museum Mile. In a recent exhibition, artist Cynthia Minet displayed her sculpture Panthera Atrox. A kinetic LED-lit panther made from recycled plastic modeled after the species whose ruins were found in the adjacent La Brea Tar Pits. The La Brea Tar Pits Museum and Craft Contemporary collaborated to offer a neighborhood tour joining their two perspectives. Science and the arts. This community-driven mentality was born with founder Wyle’s creation of the International Festival of Masks in Los Angeles.

While the last festival was held in 1995, it is clear her ethos and mission to spread craft arts throughout the community of Los Angeles still permeates throughout Craft Contemporary today. Further, while the doors at Craft Contemporary are currently shut in light of COVID-19, Liou ensures us that they have been «quite busy trying to rethink how audiences can engage with us from the comfort of their homes». The museum website is currently host to a number of digital offerings. These include at home craft nights, as well as more in-depth resources for virtual engagement with their current exhibitions. 

Craft Contemporary

5814 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, United States

Craft Contemporary – formerly the Craft and Folk Art Museum – is a non-profit, non-collecting arts museum dedicated to showcasing contemporary craft in Los Angeles, California. The museum is located on Los Angeles’ Museum Row on Wilshire Boulevard, and across from the George C. Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits.

Exterior facade of Craft Contemporary, Los Angeles

Joanna Vlahos

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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