How do you modernize craft? It’s a question the curators at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft seek to answer in their newest exhibition “Material Issue,” which will be on view Friday night in celebration of the museum’s grand reopening.
KMAC was established in 1981 as a way to build interest in the state’s rich craft heritage — whittling, carpentry, tapestry, quilting — which led to a collection of American Folk Art from the region. In 2001, the organization relocated to a four-story cast iron structure located on West Main Street.
The museum has since undergone a nine-month, $3 million renovation. As executive director Aldy Milliken told WFPL recently, the update marks the museum’s transition from “a retail to an educational institution” that showcases the way contemporary artists think through materials.
This modern reimagining of craft is on display in “Material Issue,” which was curated by Joey Yates, KMAC’s associate curator, and Milliken.
According to Milliken, the exhibition provides insight into how certain creative endeavors push traditional process beyond the limits of conventional practice.
“‘Material Issue’ simply describes our mission about connecting people to art and creative practice,” Milliken says. “Every single artist in the exhibition has a big idea, something they want to say, and the concepts they want to work on are informed by the materials they are using.”
These ideas are expressed in works created through diverse techniques and elements: pen and ink drawing, ceramics, woodworking, painting, textiles, film, video, and found objects.
“The exhibition is quite ambitious,” Milliken says. “We have a range of artists that are both local and international, including an artist who had a presentation in the Tate [Modern] Turbine Hall, Tacita Dean.”
According to the exhibition description, “Material Issue” continues the museum’s efforts to resist the narrow definitions and hierarchical classifications of creative practice — a fitting opening for KMAC’s new chapter as an institution dedicated to educating the public about modern interpretations of folk art.
KMAC’s grand reopening takes place Friday at 5 p.m. More information is available here.