Jewelry may be decorative but it’s also traditionally been a means of both storing and displaying wealth. And it doesn’t have to be the crown jewels. To this day, the subtlest high-end jewelry is a signal of wealth to be read by those in the know.
The current show at NATIONALE (2730 E Burnside) asks the question is art no different than jewelry? A marker of a class that can afford non-essential goods? A display of taste that can only be cultivated by those with the time and resources to do so?
Portland artist Jason Charles Rens has created a series of wall-based sculptures, Non-Jewelry , with gem-shaped, oversized "beads" made of hydrocal, finished and strung on various kinds of thick rope as if Elizabeth Taylor went Flavor Flav. Some of the "non-necklaces" are flash, some are subtle (if not in scale), and the "non-choker" is gritty. All of this would have been good not great if Rens hadn’t blown up with his "non-chains," moving two steps further than standard issue jewelry form to create a minimalist, jeweled rope web that feels nautical (yeah, buoy!).
There is much delicious in-betweenness in this series. The jewelry is made unprecious by its material—hydrocal (a white gypsum cement), humble rope, and equestrian hardware—and precious again as a work of art. It apes a wearable form but is made unwearable by scale. And the form of the individual jewel or bead is very cleverly somewhere between faceted gem and a stud you’d find on a black leather jacket.
All of it left me asking Where’s my Richard Burton?
Non-Jewelry is on display at NATIONALE (2730 E Burnside) through October 4.
And I’m looking forward to seeing the installation Rens is doing at the Cleaners at the Ace Hotel for the upcoming Content 09 independent fashion event, Sunday, October 18.