“RAW: Craft, Commodity, and Capitalism”
We are showing our work Grape Chandelier in this really interesting exhibition at Craft Contemporary. Exhibition and Artist Statement below…
RAW features nine contemporary artists who work with a range of commodities as artistic material to explore the historical and contemporary effects of global capitalism. Their deliberate use of these materials acknowledges the complex and enduring legacy of capitalistic structures, such as slavery, colonialism, and industrialization, and their human and environmental impact. Through their work, these artists reveal the biographical and historical narratives encapsulated in each commodity, allowing audiences to question their own relationship to these materials. Works in the exhibition will include sculptural pieces and installations created from cotton, sugar, copper, salt, porcelain, water, and other materials. Exhibition artists: Charmaine Bee, Atul Bhalla, Sonya Clark, Raksha Parekh, Jovencio de la Paz, Ignacio Perez Meruane, Amor Muñoz, Juana Valdes, and Ken + Julia Yonetani.
This exhibition is funded in part by the Pasadena Art Alliance. Exhibition research was supported by a Craft Research Fund grant from the Center for Craft.
Ken + Julia Yonetani create complex, large-scale installations that address the impacts of human activity and industrialization on the environment. The Yonetanis began their artistic collaboration in 2008 and have created a wide range of works utilizing salt, rice, uranium, and other natural resources to illustrate the ramifications of environmental catastrophes such as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan and the bleaching of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The Yonetanis often work on-site and with scientists studying these events as a part of their research and artistic production. Their installations are often monumental, immersive experiences and frequently reference items of luxury such as banquet tables, foodstuffs, and chandeliers that act as cautionary tales for the devastation that can result from over consumption of natural resources.
Their sculpture Grape Chandelier, 2011, is one of several works the Yonetanis have made from groundwater salt collected from the Murray–Darling River basin, a large geographical area in the interior of southeastern Australia. The artists note that “along the Murray-Darling basin, known as Australia’s ‘food bowl’ as it produces up to 90 per cent of Australia’s fresh food, 550,000 tons of salt is pumped out of the ground every year to try and stem the increasing rise of highly saline groundwater.” Groundwater salinity has always been present, but in past decades the crisis has been exasperated by the state’s allowance of increased agricultural enterprises and the unsustainable water extraction needed for their irrigation, killing fish and the local ecosystem. To create their works, the artists collected salt from the Murray River Salt company, which harvests salt from groundwater pumped out by stations along the river basin.
The Yonetanis constructed their chandelier from 5000 salt beads that were hand-cast from molds of grapes produced in the same region. Wine is also part of the area’s agricultural production and grape irrigation contributes to the increased salinity levels. In their work, the artist contrast salt’s ability to preserve food with its destructive effect on Australia’s most important food producing region. The piece also serves as a metaphor for larger, global environmental decline and food insecurity.
Ken Yonetani holds a Master of Arts in Visual Arts from the School of Art, Australian National University, and a PhD in Visual Arts from the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. Julia Yonetani holds a Master of Arts at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo, and holds a PhD in History from the Australian National University. The couple‘s work has been exhibited widely throughout Australia and has appeared in both solo and group shows in Tokyo, New York, Berlin, France, London, and Tel Aviv, including the Mori Art Museum 2019, Armory Show 2018, Singapore Biennale 2013 and the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009.