jewelry as an event

Jewelry as an event / David Gerstein for Omanuyot Magazine / 1984

 The preponderant tendency in the art world to regard painting and sculpture as the forerunners in the development of aesthetic thought stems primarily from the effect of their characteristic externality and physical proportions. The reciprocal glow between observer and work, and vice versa (David Salle suggests the latter with the eye that looks out at the observer from his work), is direct and unmediated.
  Whether emotional or intellectual, this is believed to liberate the work from any functional aspect, which might restrain the imagination from reaching up to new orbits.This is not the case with regard to other plastic arts (architecture, graphics and the like), as they are still grouped under the restraining definition of “design”, ostensibly hindered by the function they perform.
  This preface might appear apologetic, but it is no more than an elucidation of the stigma widely ascribed to original artists and begs to be discarded after analysis. For what essentially is the difference between a white wall (or empty space) and fabric on which an object – jewelry – is worn? Nevertheless, the generation that easily shed the trappings of restraining frameworks and “isms” must still be convinced that jewelry design indeed speaks the language of plastic art.


The artist Deganit Schocken, who will be exhibiting her work at the prestigious Helen Drutt Gallery in New York, employs a language and syntax based on problems of a purely plastic-art nature and not decorative per se.
Deganit Schocken’s creations are not “jewelry” in the accepted sense. Although the physical scale of her works is small and coordinated to bodily proportions, they basically address problems of construction and utilization of space.
  The first series, from the early 80’s, deals with the architectural and mechanical aspects of the ornament. These works were constructed from frames on which types of hinges free-form doors opened and closed, transforming the foreground from two to three dimensional and exposing the fabric through the openings, so as to include it as background to the actual “event”. The attendant experience transpires after a long process of playing with and exposing the object and does not end after an initial viewing. There is no obverse or reverse, and the object itself becomes animate, changing along with the observer, revealing and concealing in turn. There is an interesting dialogue between the frame, which remains stationary, and the changing spaces. The object is an architectural façade with walls and openings. I would describe this period as one of “poetic mechanics”.   
  In the next stage the flat elements, which were, to a certain degree, decorative, recede and make way for stronger emphasis on constructive-functional means. Rather than “pretty”, the 

object becomes concrete. Much as the architectural form that does away with walls and exposes a building’s entrails,

Deganit Schocken turns the system of hinges and the clasp itself from secondary elements to the main focus of the work. These take on a decidedly artistic expression. The functional is transformed into the aesthetic. The decorative embellishments are removed and new images are brought to the fore. The clasp becomes a line, the hinge – volume, and the frames – drawings in space. The constructive frameworks use a simpler, more conceptual language: symmetry as opposed to asymmetry, closed as opposed to open, movement as opposed to inertia, in addition to problems of grading the object’s elements. The structures are simple and bare, crafted out of silver and gold with a colorfulness that stems from the beauty of the classic material. They are in no way ornate and can be compared to miniature sculpted structures. Notwithstanding their scale, they give the impression of large sculptures. Concrete sculpture of this type
developed at the end of the 70’s, including artists such as Anthony Caro, Richard Serra and Mark Di Suvero.

Deganit Schocken’s works possess elements that are as flexible as the fabric. The line crosses the material, digs into it and makes it part of the total image.

There is an active dialogue between surface and line, between supple and hard, between shiny and muted, between light and dark, thus creating a sense of both tension and completeness among the elements.Movement is a basic theme that runs through all of Schocken’s work, without turning it into kinetic art. It is sculpture in movement, an object that gleans its movement from the body and flows with it harmoniously. The object carries on the body’s movement and draws attention to its essentiality. Despite the mechanical-functional character of the ornament, it actually mimics the mechanical foundations of the body (joints and limbs), thus creating a sort of
analogy. The object is not simply a decorative accessory on the body, but a concise design of its movements.
  The main danger to which the works of this period were prone was the possibility that the lean lines of the structures (especially the geometric lines and forms in space) would turn into two-dimensional outlines. Deganit Schocken was aware of this and therefore slowly introduced three-dimensional organic forms made of porcelain, which thickened and reinforced the image and anchored it in volume. In these works the tension centers around volume and line, and the two poles nurture each other. The eye flows with the line, stops at the bulky forms, moves around them, absorbs their opaque materialism, rests on the (slightly) rough blankness and proceeds to a line that can change from a thin line to a

 lengthened surface, and sometimes from a surface to a line. The experience grows ever more complicated and engages the senses of sight and touch simultaneously. In the search for different variations,  there are objects with coordinated clasps, coiled forms, cylindrical forms, lines composed of fabric threads stretched between the ends of frames or the ends of forms, and an
emphasis on nails, both as connecting mechanisms and as points along a stretch of line or surface.

  An ornament by Deganit Schocken is a treasure of form in which one can delve and seek out innumerable shapes and images, just like a precious stone that takes on a life of its own when it is turned over and played with. These works generally tend to be anti-minimalistic, with the emphasis on the primary feeling or transparent and airy drawing. The jewelry functions not only on the garment for which it was intended, but also by simply holding it, turning it over and moving its joints in various directions.
  In Schocken’s latest work there is a sense of liberation, an opening up of the forms and expanding them all over the surface. Here the ornament is no longer a closed and hermetic element, but a sequence of events and images extending all over the body. The ornament can only be truly appreciated through prolonged observation over time, much like a story or musical creation.

  Deganit Schocken compares her last work to constructing a street or city, in which one strolls about and discovers its hidden secrets. This is in contrast to her earlier works, which might be compared to erecting a single building. At first the elements seem foreign to one another, physically connected by a line, or lines (string or chain). There is an attempt to break with convention on the questions of what is a “pin” and what a “necklace” is and examine the connection and tension between the two. Often the events are flat elements in which a bird
(or tree, or house) might be cut in the negative; the same element may return in another place as a positive cutting. Sometimes the event is an organic, bulky form, or linear forms. The object might evoke materials known from earlier works (such as porcelain or stones) and rhythmical forms that repeat themselves. The character of the ornament changes in the way it is worn and the endless variations it forms. There is a choice between symmetry and balance on the one hand, and unobtrused extension all over the body on the other hand. It may be
regarded as an “environmental ornament”, using the entire body surface to extend from back to front and back again. Each work is like a group exhibit, with the connection among the elements left to the observer’s imagination. The charm of these works is in the synthesis between emotion and intellect. Elements of surprise and mystery add to it.
  Deganit Schocken astounds in her ability to interlace ideas as if they were so many beads on a never-ending chain.