Saturday, August 21, 2010

Golden Treasures in Columbia

Pay attention, folks: You have until September 26 to see an exhibition of exquisitely crafted golden treasures currently on display at the University of Missouri Museum of Art and Archaeology. Yes, this exhibition’s been there since early June, but if you’re just now getting back to town, or if you’re simply looking for neat things to do here in Central Missouri, may I humbly suggest this exhibition: The Voyage of a Contemporary Italian Goldsmith in the Classical World: Golden Treasures by Akelo.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not a “jewelry gal.” But that’s my point: I’m genuinely impressed by this show, and by the artist-goldsmith who has created the works. The artistry and craftsmanship make this exhibition transcend, by far, any routine look in a jewelry store’s windows.

The goldsmith’s name is Andrea Cagnetti, whose “artistic name” (like a nom de plume) is Akelo. He’s Italian and grew up constantly exposed to Greek, Roman, and Etruscan classic artworks. From an early age, he admired the gold jewelry of the ancient Etruscans.

However, the goldsmithing techniques of the Etruscans had been lost to time. But Akelo’s dogged studies of science and art led him to research metallurgy, and he delved into the ancient texts of alchemy to look for hints for how his ancient forebears did what they did. In those medieval books, recipes for gold were combined with recipes for the purification of the soul, and Akelo’s life was, in a strange, anachronistic fashion, transformed into that of a medieval monk.

I guarantee that you will be impressed by his delicate application of filagree, his selection of precious and semiprecious stones, and the powerful symbolism of his designs and ornaments. But perhaps the most remarkable thing you’ll see in the exhibit is a technique called granulation.

I’d never heard of granulation before—basically, it’s a way of creating a texture on the surface of a gold object by affixing a layer of tiny gold balls (granules) to it. These balls can be as large as a millimeter and as small as .07 mm. (That’s seven hundredths of the width of a dime!)

The goldsmith has to create these spheres and weld them (somehow) onto the surface, usually in some sort of pattern.

This technique—in the perfected form the Etruscans had developed—had been lost to time. Indeed, it was being lost about the time the Romans took over. Akelo, however, has figured out how to do it, and the spectacular results can be seen at this exhibition.

Akelo also has his own proprietary formula for mixing gold, so the color of his gold is different—warmer, I’d say, but also more vibrant—from what you’ve seen before.

Everything in this show is made by this one man—starting with the melting and mixing of the gold, to the shaping and decorating of the pieces, to the creation of his own thin gold wires, and even to the crafting of each tiny, identical link in every single chain. All made by him.

He must have an incredible amount of patience!

Again—I’m not a girl to go nuts over jewelry—but I am impressed by the time and care Akelo has put into his art. His designs, which feature elements such as amphoras, pinecones, acorns, dolphins, and crosses, pay homage to the classical and medieval past but also contain a contemporary flair—as a result, the pieces are timeless.

It’s no surprise that Akelo’s work has been getting lots of attention, and that major art museums have begun purchasing his works for their permanent collections.

So catch a rising star—go see the Golden Treasures by Akelo. I promise that you will be impressed.

Finally, a word about the Museum of Art and Archaeology: If you have never seen it, make sure you build in plenty of time to visit the whole museum. No, it’s not the Nelson, and no, it’s not the Saint Louis Art Museum, but for its size, its collection—of antiquities, classic works, and more contemporary pieces—is remarkable, significant, full of artistic gems.

Time spent in an art museum is never, ever wasted. It elevates you, it broadens your mind. The role of the artist is to remind you that everything around us is a miracle. —Oh, and did I mention this museum is free? Free! So you have no excuse not to go.

There’s all kinds of stuff going on there. Look at their website for more information.

Museum of Art and Archaeology
1 Pickard Hall
University of Missouri–Columbia

Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
(closed on holidays)

No comments: