Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rowland Ricketts: The Museum of Contemporary Craft’s Last Exhibition

Rowland Ricketts: Work Time installation shot. Image courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Craft. Photo: Matt Gaston '15

An installation with cascades of indigo textiles draped above the exhibition space functions as the center piece to the Museum of Contemporary Craft’s most recent and final exhibition, “Rowland Ricketts: WorkTime”.  Ricketts uses centuries old Japanese methods and natural indigo dyes to create large scale contemporary installations and designs. Unlike modern indigo production, Ricketts prefers to use slower and more natural methods to honor the quality of traditional indigo practices. I originally came across Ricketts’ work at a panel discussion at the College Art Association Conference in 2014. I was eager to see his work in person after his memorable artist talk. Seeing “Rowland Ricketts: Work Time” did not disappoint, but unfortunately news of the Museum of Contemporary Craft’s impending closure has overshadowed the exhibition.

On February 3rd, 2016 the Pacific Northwest College of Art sent out a press release announcing the closure of the Museum of Contemporary Craft. PNCA’s reasoning for the closure states that the, "vision of transforming the museum into a dynamic, student-centric educational resource was not fully realized. In the meantime, the financial cost to the college has remained high." The museum’s collection will be absorbed by PNCA, who will open the Center for Contemporary Art and Culture.

I was deeply disappointed to hear the news of MOCC’s closure especially considering my academic passion and dedication to crafts inclusion and importance to the contemporary art world. MOCC also functioned as a leader in Portland’s notable craft community. My own interest in contemporary craft stemmed deeply from the Portland’s craft artists. I see the closure of MOCC as a direct result of the long asked question, “Is craft art?” Even in a city that held one of the nations largest and oldest institutions dedicated to craft, this argument continues to develop. Daniel Duford wrote on the news of MOCC’s closure and craft’s importance, “For all the academic patois and MFA art speak around “radicality” and “criticality” it is in craft where the voices of women, indigenous cultures and working people are first heard.” This argument rings true and was evidenced in MOCC’s previous exhibition “Alien She” which highlighted the influence of the Riot Grrrl movement on contemporary craft artists. Artists in this exhibition discussed issues of race, gender, sexuality, and commercialism all through the radical medium of craft.

In light of MOCC’s upcoming closure, I am left wondering about craft’s future in Portland. Who will carry on the legacy? Make sure to stop by for MOCC’s final exhibition, “Rowland Ricketts: Work Time.”

Related Articles:
“PNCA Answers Some Questions About Closing theCraft Museum”- Barry Johnson

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