Esther Knobel / Memory Vessels
“Trying to remember,” states Israeli artist Esther Knobel, “has been at the heart of my practice.” Her latest works build upon that concept, seen earlier in The Immigrants (1987-2007), Requiem(1994), My Grandmother is Knitting Too (2000-2002), and Magnets (2010-2016). Inspired by “memory vessels” – repurposed jugs covered with embedded fragments of memorabilia made in the home by untrained artists – Knobel effaces the line between container and content, seeking simple beauty in the “breach of order” that DIY (do-it-yourself) offers. The current group of necklaces, brooches, and pendants on handmade chains further illustrates Knobel’s conflicts about the dualistic nature of contemporary jewelry: high art vs. low; skilled vs. less so; precious vs. common.Knobel is perpetually engaged with craft theory, using her work – instead of words – as a platform for her belief that thought precipitates action and vice-versa. Her notable brooch series, The Mind in the Hand (2006-2010), is an attempt to clarify the Hebrew term milekhet mahshevet -“work of craftsmanship.” By embroidering images of hands conducting both domestic and industrial tasks with steel wire on silver sheet, she developed a visual means of communicating her discourse on materials, process, so-called expertise, and genuine creativity. As with The Mind in the Hand, My Grandmother is Knitting Too seeks a dialogue with handicrafts, in this instance realized through knitted (and then enameled) copper electrical wire. Knobel encourages us to appreciate the direct imagery and comforting nostalgia of these not always perfect objects. And in so doing, impels us to reevaluate traditional thinking about art, craft, and design. Enameling is one of Knobel’s favored pursuits, employed in several series including My Grandmother is Knitting Too, Fruit of the Sea (2002-2016) and Magnets. Commensurate with her ongoing challenge to traditional methodologies, such as inlay and niello, central to The Mind in the Hand, Knobel wished to push the boundaries of enameled cast iron. Enameling on iron, however, presents technical challenges not encountered when enameling on copper, the usual substrate. To that end, in spring 2015 Knobel completed a two-month Arts/Industry residency at the Kohler plumbing ware company’s Iron and Brass Foundries and Enamel Shop in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. With the help of Kohler’s experts, she developed processes for casting iron beads in a mold and then enameling them while red-hot. She also experimented with enamel transfers, with which she decorated a monumental iron bead necklace, along with a selection of Kohler’s manufactured sinks. “The Kohler Necklace,” as well as iron and enamel pendants, and tabletop objects, comprise an extraordinary body of work and a major technical achievement. We are thrilled to be able to offer some of the jewelry pieces done at Kohler, as well as others of enamel on copper, in this exhibition. Esther Knobel studied painting at the Institute for Plastic Arts in Bat Yam, Israel. She holds a BA from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem and an MA from Royal College of Art, London. She has participated in countless solo and group exhibitions. Knobel has received numerous awards and grants, most notably the Françoise van den Bosch Prize, The Netherlands (1994); a 2006 Grant for an Artist Book from Israel Lottery Council for the Arts, The Arthur Goldreich Trust, and the Israeli Center for Libraries; and The Andrea Bronfman (Andy) Prize for the Arts (2008), which included a solo exhibition, Esther Knobel: Long Distance Runner, at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Knobel has taught extensively in Israel and abroad, and her work is represented in many public collections including Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv; The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; The Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), Vienna; Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montréal; The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Schmuckmuseum, Pforzheim; Die Neue Sammlung, Munich; Röhsska Museum, Gothenburg; Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), New York; Newark Museum, Newark; Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), London; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles.