Paul Evans (1931-1987), Disc Bar, ca. 1970, bronzed resin, wood, Collection of Dr. Mary D’Alton

Museums often plan out far in advance for their exhibitions. One such project that has been currently underway, is a retrospective of the work of metalsmith, craftsman, and furniture maker, Paul Evans, opening in early 2014.

Depending on the size of the exhibition, museums often engage independent curators, scholars or historians to work with in planning an exhibition. With this retrospective, the Curator of Collections, Constance Kimmerle is working with the team that includes: Glenn Adamson  from the Victoria & Albert Museum, Edward S. Cooke from the Yale Center of American Art and Material Culture, Gregory Wittkopp from the Cranbrook Art Museum, and exhibit designer Stephen Saitas.

After months of planning, the team created a preliminary exhibition design plan that incorporates seven themes that reveal how Evans’s work evolved over time and how the work produced was the result of the collaborative highly experimental nature of his shop:

1. The Collaborative Workshop, an orientation space with video of former shop workers recounting and reflecting on their shop experiences.  The video will explore what attracted workers to the Evans workshop and craft factory, how they operated, and what factors influenced Paul Evans’s experimental approaches to metal.

Paul Evans in his workshop, 1961. Courtesy Dorsey Reading.

Paul Evans in his workshop, 1961. Courtesy Dorsey Reading.

2. Mastering Materials and Techniques to Explore Design—the focus here is on Evans’s student years at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Craftsman and Cranbrook Art Academy, as well as his experience as an independent living craftsman at Sturbridge Village.  Evans devoted much of his time at these institutions mastering traditional techniques in the hand working of metals and acquiring skill in raising hollowware, forging flatware and designing hollowware, flatware, and jewelry inspired by contemporary Scandinavian design.

3. Mixing It Up: Paul Evans and Phillip Lloyd Powell Collaborate in the Making of Expressive Furniture in New Hope, Pennsylvania —the focus here is on the work of Evans and Phil Powell during the mid to late fifties and sixties as they blend traditional materials and old skills with modern materials and industrial techniques to highlight the beauty inherent in the material with which they worked.

4. America House —A recreation of an exhibit in American Craft Council founder Aileen Webb’s Manhattan craft outlet. The room will highlight how the mid-century America House shows, just like the MOMA Good Design shows of the same period, offered designer-craftsmen opportunities to display and market their work while also encouraging acceptance of modern design in American culture.

Paul Evans and shop workers Dorsey Reading and Gary Dunston, 1961. Courtesy, Dorsey Reading.

Paul Evans and shop workers Dorsey Reading and Gary Dunston, 1961. Courtesy, Dorsey Reading.

5. The 1960s: Working the Metal—-the focus here is Paul Evans’s studio furniture and sculpture and his experimentation with the drip and flow of molten materials; his use of painted and textured surfaces and organic forms to explore expressive content, and his approach to furniture as sculpture and abstract composition.

6. Workshops as Design and Industrial Laboratories— highlighting products of Evans’s studio of the late sixties and seventies and of his association with Directional Furniture Company.  During this period, Evans created his sculpted bronze line that combined traditional craft with innovative techniques and materials and spontaneous free expression and subsequently his Cityscape line with its smooth reflective surfaces that were notably different from the crusty, painted textured surfaces of the sculpted steel work of the sixties.

7. Contemporary Room— drawn from the collections of contemporary collectors, this room highlights the relationship of Evans’s work to a family of contemporaneous objects and reveals the flourishing craft renaissance that took place in Philadelphia and environs during the sixties.

Stay tuned for more discussion of the Paul Evans exhibition team planning efforts!

The Pew Center for Arts and HeritageThis exhibition is created in support from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage through the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative. Presenting Sponsor is Rago Arts and Auction Center.