Sheldon Museum of Art


Date of this Version



Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska- Lincoln, July 12- August 31, 1976.


All images are copyright by the original artists. Publication copyright 1976 The Regents of the University of Nebraska


The present exhibition is part of a collaboration with the University's Department of Art and the Summer Session which has as its principal purpose to provide an occasion which can serve as stimulus to the art of the metal craftsman in Nebraska and the region. The opportunity to participate in a workshop under the direction of Elliott Pujol is combined with an opportunity to see and study the work of some of the country's outstanding artists in the medium.

It is also an appropriate occasion to exhibit the Gallery's own collection which has been enlarged within the past year with purchases made possible by a grant from the Charles Merrill Trust.

For the public as well as for students, it is an exciting excursion into the creative possibilities inherent in the traditions, materials and techniques of the art. Far from being confined within the traditional definitions of use, the work of these artists can be seen as demonstrations of the free imagination at work, creations in the realms of fantasy and satire, as sculpture and even theatre.

We are pleased to acknowledge the readiness of the artists to contribute their work, the special assistance in planning given by Elliott Pujol and the enthusiastic cooperation of Dan Howard, Chairman of our Department of Art. During the period of organization, we were dismayed at the news of the death of Olaf Skoogfors and we are pleased to dedicate this catalogue to his achievement. Thanks, too, to Jon Nelson and George Meininger for installation and catalogue, to Kaz Tada for photographs and to the other members of the Gallery staff for their indispensable contributions.


As the pieces for the current exhibition arrived two facts became apparent, the prevalence of plastic and the predominance of objects in large scale. The jewelry section of the Art Deco exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts demonstrated that metal craftsmen of the period felt free to combine plastic with diamonds and gold. In the 1920's and 30's the material was a miracle of modern science; since then, with its appearance on or in practically every factory produced item, it has fallen in esteem and become synonymous with anything synthetic, spurious or sleazy. However, in the late 1960's its fortunes reascended primarily due to the efforts of Italian industrial designers who designed items specifically to be made in plastic. These sleek, elegant products, in contrast to earlier ones where the material was made to imitate wood, metal, ceramic, textile and glass, reestablished plastic as a material worthy of consideration on a purely aesthetic basis. It is material that can be cast, carved, cut into fretwork or used as a coating over other materials. Also, it is soft and easily scratched and from this point of view it can be regarded as precious if one wished to add delicacy to rarity in a definition of precious. So, it is not too unusual that it is included in so many contemporary pieces, some of which contain more plastic than gold. Robert Natalini's PIN is a fine example. The gold portion is confined to a finned element at the bottom; the main part of the piece, composed of translucent, clear and colored plastic pieces is fused together in a manner reminiscent of a Venetian trading bead. There are also moving parts, three rolling discs, about 1/4" in diameter, containing a small insect, an almost microscopic starfish and a seashell, the size of a new born baby's fingernail. The precision with which the elements are made and assembled, their small size and delicate color combine to make a precious object in spite of the material. This is not to say that all the objects contain plastic, because there are many constructed in traditional castings and fabricating techniques using the precious metals and gem stones, that have been used since pre-historic times, but clearly plastic has arrived.