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Brilliant Debut

Brilliant Debut

RISD’s Jewelry + Metalsmithing department launches a virtual pop-up exhibition promoting work by recent graduates.

nude model shows Symbols by Mercan Dinckok

Recent grad Mercan Dinckok 21 JM makes symbols inspired by nature and spirituality.

Just in time for New York City Jewelry Week, RISD’s Jewelry + Metalsmithing department unveils a new website promoting the work of recent graduates. J+M ShowShop is a virtual pop-up exhibition offering production and limited-edition work for sale. All sales support the artists, with a portion of the proceeds funding departmental initiatives.

“With exhibitions shifting to virtual due to the pandemic, it felt like the right time to launch the site.”

Department Head Tracy Steepy

“We have wanted to feature an online platform for some time," says Department Head Tracy Steepy. “With exhibitions shifting to virtual due to the pandemic, it felt like the right time to launch the site. And none of this would have been possible without the guidance and dedication of my colleague Timothy Veske-McMahon, who has been driving this project from the start, as well as the beautiful site design by José Menéndez MFA 17 GD and Tatiana Gómez MFA 18 GD.”

brass-colored symbol by Dinckok
Affirmation by Mercan Dinckok 21 JM.

Centered on the senior degree projects of Class of 2021 BFAs Cyvian Chen 21 ID/JM, Mercan Dinckok 21 JM, Yimei Hu 21 ID/JM, Tony Kwon 21 JM, Man Luo 21 JM, Jacqueline Moon 21 JM and Tiger Rocha 21 JM, the site presents work using a wide variety of materials and includes artist statements providing context for each piece.

mesh neckpiece
From the series Hold Me Tight by Man Luo 21 JM.

Symbols, for example, is Dinckok’s attempt to “activate the symbol as a whole by paying attention to the scale, color, material and placement of the piece on the body. I make symbols that are inspired by nature, spirituality and my own feelings and experiences,” the artist says. “My pieces offer companionship… and serve as a form of personal ritual.”

A series of pieces by Luo called Hold Me Tight was inspired by the sense of isolation the artist felt during the height of the pandemic. The work, says the jewelry designer and gemologist, is meant to “accompany, support and console an isolated individual.” Featuring soft fabrics, hand stitching, organic silhouettes and shimmering metals, the collection offers wearers a kind of inanimate love. 

hands holding an oval artifact by Tony Kwon
Artifacts by Tony Kwon 21 JM reflect on the artist’s fear of abandonment.

Kwon, who is currently working as a design assistant at David Yurman in NYC, offers a series of objects or artifacts reflecting on his fear of abandonment. “I construct objects to mask my anxiety and encapsulate fragments of memories that are genuine or aspirational,” he explains. “They are fragments of memory and love, acting as personal, portable shrines.” 

bench with unexplained game included
Seats for the Productive, Boredom by Jacqueline Moon 21 JM invites a conversation about labor and productivity.

New grad Moon presents an interactive project called Seats for the Productive, Boredom that invites an open conversation about labor and productivity. “People often determine the quality of labor by the quantity of its tangible or profitable outcome,” the artist explains.

“Our vocabulary compounds time with words like consuming, saving and wasting, imparting the price of time as an expenditure.”

Jacqueline Moon 21 JM

“Our vocabulary compounds time with words like consuming, saving and wasting, imparting the price of time as an expenditure. As a result, we condemn idle time and lack of labor—boredom—as a sign of unproductiveness.” Her piece reframes boredom as an opportunity, allowing the user to draw their own conclusions about labor, time and consciousness.

tiny human figure in other-worldly landscape
Imagine Yourself the Size of an Ant by Tiger Rocha 21 JM.

Rocha also explores the conceptual with Imagine Yourself the Size of an Ant, which makes use of sculpture and performative video. “Experiencing the world at this scale offers a radically different perspective,” he explains. “I build micro-worlds with winding tunnels and caves that act as a refuge from reality. By performing routine tasks in these new spaces, I examine the mundanity of daily life.”

wooden spatula or necklace?
Spatula or necklace? Recent grad Cyvian Chen 21 ID/JM lets the viewer decide.

Chen explores shifting perceptions by reimagining wooden tableware as jewelry. “Everything is socially constructed,” Chen notes. “We recognize objects through our previous experience with similar shapes and contexts. When we see a long round handle with a wide, flat, square shape, we recognize a spatula. When we see many small pieces of similar material, shape and color strung together by a thread, we recognize a beaded necklace.” Her senior degree project allows such pieces to live two lives, serving as kitchen tools when they lie quietly on a table and as necklaces when worn on the body.

spiky chunk of sterling silver
For Her (sterling silver) by Yimei Hu 21 ID/JM.

And finally, fellow dual major Hu goes even deeper into the conceptual with Alive Everything!, a speculative project that reimagines our relationships with consumer products. “Perpetuated by the ever-shortening trend cycles and the deep disconnection between consumers and the labor behind products, we are increasingly enticed to enjoy destructive disposable pleasures,” Hu notes. Her response is to imagine future products that integrate synthetic, human-like cells and thus change people’s relationships with the things they buy, inspiring more conscientious consumption.

Simone Solondz

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