Local Arts

‘All That Sparkles ...’ shows thought

Silver belt by Harry Bertoia; look for several of his monotypes hung in this exhibition.
Silver belt by Harry Bertoia; look for several of his monotypes hung in this exhibition. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

All of “All That Sparkles” is not gold, for sure – and not much of it even actually sparkles.

That’s because this jewelry, on display at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, comes from 20th-century artists – not jewelry makers – who were stretching concepts and materials in new ways. They were, as one of the show’s wall texts puts it, “introducing the idea that in the hands of an artist-turned-jeweler, wearable art could rival gems and fine metals.”

So – don’t come expecting a lot of gems and fine metals.

Do expect provocative forms and combinations, clear lines drawn between an artist’s more typical work and her or his jewelry, and some Bechtler-family anecdotes.

There’s physics-obsessed Claire Falkenstein, for example – getting a lot of recent press as an under-heralded artist of the period, who fused glass and metal and paired stove pipe wire with glass leavings (“the kind that result from cleaning the furnaces in the famous glass factories at Murano,” said the artist) in her sculptures – and some of her fantastical yoke necklaces and spidery forms.

There’s Harry Bertoia, probably best known for his diamond hair and dandelion sculptures, working a belt of silver that you’ll find hard to believe is really a belt. (Curator Jennifer Sudul Edwards says, yep: a belt. Spouse Brigitte Valentiner was really tiny.)

There’s a pendant, a winged bird on curling leaves, by sculptor Raffael Benazzi in a case, then there it is in photographs, around the neck of Bessie Bechtler (who had two and wore them often). Nearby is a Benazzi alabaster sculpture, all sinuous curves and glowing veins.

And there’s Niki de Saint Phalle, creating vivid, multi-part, polyester-resin murals – and serpent bracelets that came with bottles of perfume. You know her: She made Charlotte’s most photographed avian, the Bechtler’s Firebird, which hits its sparkling silver anniversary this year.

The show runs through Jan. 8, 2017; 420 S. Tryon St.; www.bechtler.org.