Share This Article
June 25–October 30, 2022
Presently on display at the Museum of Craft and Design through October 30, 2022 is Iris Eichenberg: Where Words Fail. The German artist Iris Eichenberg’s work confronts contemporary topics including gender, identity, and Heimat, which is a phrase used to describe the inner serenity and satisfaction one experiences after arriving at a safe haven. This show is the first mid-career survey of her work.
Iris Eichenberg is an artist and educator who has lived in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. She applies a critical global perspective to her jewelry and metalwork. Where Words Fail is divided into four themed sections: Place, Self, Place & Self, and Community. Each area draws from works from the artist’s career, including new work, jewelry, objects, and installations. Guest curator Davira S. Taragin organized the exhibition.
As the section headings imply, Eichenberg’s approach is informed by her distinctive multicultural perspective and a relentless probe of materiality in order to determine the craft technique and material combination that best suit the subject at hand. In contrast to other artists who have resided in several European cities and incorporate elements of various cultures into their works, Eichenberg’s time in America has made her more conscious of her “Germanness.” This reaction to her lineage has, however, always been made more difficult by a sense of guilt and accountability for a past that had significant cultural and historical ramifications. Artworks like Eichenberg’s moving “Heimat” series, which honors the Germany of her grandmothers, show this.Old family photos, the ancient timber farmhouse filled with warm, welcome evidence of hard-working women, and patchwork-quilt fields bordered by trees serve as reoccurring themes for her works of various scales.
Eichenberg’s work is incredibly pertinent, addressing current issues like gender and LGBT identity, the need for a secure, accepting sanctuary, and reality in today’s society with its cries for social justice. In each of the foreign locations she lives in, gay artist Eichenberg describes herself in unclear terms by relying on the sensory language that develops from the tools and methods she uses. The artist has used more graphic depictions of women’s genital parts during the past 20 years. She has always used commonplace forms, but some of her most recent work adds a new degree of acute, albeit lyrical physicality that acquires even more sensuality.This can be seen in pieces like Finger (2013), a gathering of extended polymer digits installed on a wall and celebrating touch as well as the artist’s LGBT identity.
Guest Curator Davira S. Taragin states, “Over the past quarter-century, as an educator and prolific artist who lectures and conducts workshops worldwide, Eichenberg has been instrumental in molding and shaping art jewelry today. This exhibition will, hopefully, mark the beginning of much-needed scholarship on this seminal figure within late twentieth- and twenty-first-century art.”
Iris Eichenberg: Where Words Fail brings together forty pieces from Eichenberg’s extensive archive and international private and public collections for the first time ever for audiences on the West Coast. These pieces show how Eichenberg examined herself while also considering the effects of place and community.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog with essays by curator Davira S. Taragin and art historian Benjamin Lignel. Learn more about Iris Eichenberg: Where Words Fail at sfmcd.org.
Iris Eichenberg: Where Words Fail is made possible, in part, by the Susan Beech Mid-Career Artist Grant from Art Jewelry Forum. The exhibition is generously supported by Goethe-Institut San Francisco, the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Barbara Waldman, and Rodney Turner and Ken Thongcharoen. The Museum of Craft and Design’s exhibitions and programs are generously supported by Grants for the Arts. Additional support is provided by Hunter Douglas and Dorothy Saxe.