Two venues in the Bay Area are currently honoring Modernist jeweler, Margaret De Patta (1903-1964). Just yesterday, the exhibition Space-Light-Stucture: The Jewelry of Margaret De Patta opened at the Oakland Museum of California, through May 13, 2012. This retrospective will travel to the Museum of Art and Design in New York City in June 2012. The exhibition at the OMCA, where the largest collection of De Patta’s work is held (most of which was donated by her husband Eugene Bielawski after the artist’s untimely death in 1964), features more than 60 jewelry pieces as well as ceramics, flatware, photographs, pictograms, and newly released archival material.
Born Margaret Strong in 1903, De Patta was raised in San Diego, relocated to San Francisco in 1923, and began her career as a painter at the California School of Fine Arts. In the 1930’s, De Patta became interested in jewelry during a quest to find the perfect wedding band (for her 3rd marriage). She taught herself basic jewelry techniques and began designing and fabricating innovative one-of-a-kind pieces.
De Patta was a pioneer in the modernist jewelry movement and was greatly influenced by Constructivist principles and Bauhaus design, especially after having studied with sculptor Moholy-Nagy in Chicago, 1940-41. Her jewelry constructions feature architectural forms with simple lines, structure, transparency, and movable parts. She is credited with starting the modern American studio jewelry movement on the West Coast and was a founding member of the San Francisco Metal Arts Guild.
In addition to this retrospective of De Patta’s work in Oakland, there is a concurrent exhibition across the Bay Bridge at the Velvet Da Vinci gallery in San Francisco, The De Patta Project: New jewelry made with old stones acquired from the estate of Margaret De Patta:
“De Patta and experimental lapidary artist Francis J. Sperisen explored the optical effects of faceting and lenses on gemstones to create wearable sculpture unlike any jewelry of the time. The De Patta Project was born when Velvet da Vinci purchased many of these unset stones from the estate of Margaret De Patta. There are some beautiful cut stones by Francis J. Sperisen, cabochon stones and beach pebbles found by De Patta. De Patta’s nontradtional use of gemstones and non-precious pebbles are key to the understanding the importance of her influence on the field of contemporary jewelry. 16 jewelers have now used these stones to create pieces for an exhibition opening at the same time as the Oakland Museum De Patta retrospective. The De Patta Project exhibition also includes De Patta’s original drawings of unrealized jewelry pieces and tools from her famed workshop.”
Here are a few of my favorites while more can be seen here:
Participating artists: Deborah Boskin, Petra Class, Sandra Enterline, Geoffrey Giles, Joanna Gollberg, April Higashi, Tom Hill, Mike Holmes, Dave Jones, Terri Logan, Deb Lozier, Maja, Dawn Nakanishi, Brigid O’Hanrahan, Julia Turner, Andrea Williams
Velvet da Vinci Gallery
2015 Polk Street (near Broadway)
San Francisco, CA 94109