Baran Mickle

Bill Baran Mickle Metalsmith 98110

1991 National Metal Competition
(the Brass, Copper and Bronze Competition)
Metalsmith Spring 1992 By Robert L. Cardinale

Excerpt of Article-Review:
My purpose in this article is to describe what the exhibition did show, especially in some of the pieces selected for awards, compare the three exhibitions in general, and make some analytic observations about the field of metalsmithing and jewelry as indicated by what was and was not in the exhibition.
Selection for awards was based on “evidence of a consistent maturity of expression; a unified body of work showing a strong synthesis of concept, design, and technique. We sought work which was conceptually sophisticated, technically masterful, and visually fresh. In particular, we sought the distinctive and shunned the derivative” (Cu3 catalog, Jurors’ Statement, p. 12).

I was particularly intrigued by the two pieces of William Baran-Mickle (Pittsford, NY), Johan Rhodes Update and A Successful Season. Both pieces are approximately 20 inches high, both contain real vessels but used as symbolic forms, and both are presented as simultaneously framed and sculptural objects. Baran-Mickle is making art statements by reaching back to the recent and essential roots of metalsmithing and calling or recalling our attention to them. The Johan Rhodes Update takes the classic, quintessential functional pitcher form of “modern” hollowware, but roughly rather than smoothly finished, puts it on a pedestal, adorns it with frivolous squiggles and pseudo-fashionable post-modern motifs and colors, and then frames the entire composition in a deconstructivist, disjointed picture frame. A Successful Season is a tribute or memorial to the master artist/metalsmith Hans Christensen, a teacher of Baran-Mickle’s at Rochester Institute of Technology. It makes reference to Christensen’s important work with Georg Jensen and the strong influence that Christensen’s style and teaching had in the U.S. The death of Christensen in an auto accident is evidenced by the heavy tire tread marks chased into the base of the copper pitcher and etched into the Plexiglas of the picture plane. A Successful Season refers not only to the life of Christensen as a teacher and metalsmith but to the end of that life and stylistic influence in U.S. metalsmithing.

These pieces are made for the artist/metalsmith and do for us what Warhol did for the art world when he took the Campbell’s soup can and forced us to focus upon the common object in our environment as art. Baran- Mickle’s pieces are wonderful and yet myopic examples of the self- reflexive nature of the contemporary metalsmithing and jewelry world.

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