At the Center: Masters of American Craft with Jack Larimore

In a three-part series, we are introducing you to the three artists featured in “At the Center: Masters of American Craft” installation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art now through July 2018.

The curator of this installation and the author of this piece is Elisabeth Agro, the Nancy M. McNeil Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Craft and Decorative Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This presentation is the fifth and final installation in the At the Center: Masters of American Craft series. Each exhibit highlights significant people who have shaped and influenced the field of American modern and contemporary craft. This installation concentrates on the contributions of Yvonne Pacanovsky Bobrowicz, Sharon Church, and Jack Larimore. The pairing of their objects not only demonstrates the artists’ ingenuity, virtuosity, and impact on the field, but also challenges the notion of what is considered sculpture.

“At the center” of this gallery stand Wharton Esherick’s fireplace and doorway. Esherick is renowned for pushing woodwork into the sculptural realm and these massive pieces provide a perfect setting for this display of work by contemporary artists. With a focus on craft, each installation opening has coincided with the annual Contemporary Craft Show, a celebration of craft showcasing the finest makers from around the world. What distinguishes craft within contemporary art is the value of the skill, commitment to material, and deep knowledge of process that the artists bring to their work.

Jack Larimore

Growing up on a farm in Michigan, Jack Larimore (born 1950) understood at an early age that tools meant you could “do stuff.” He began his career as an environmental planner after studying landscape architecture at Michigan State University. But it was in the early 1970s, after fixing up a house in Philadelphia, that Larimore fell under the spell of the city’s booming furniture scene.

Largely self-taught, by 1983 Larimore had established himself as a sculptor and furniture maker. Recognized early on as an innovator in the field, his work addressed issues of culture, nature, and humanity. While maintaining a private studio practice Larimore taught at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia from 1993 to 2005. He is a founding member of the Furniture Society and a trustee at the Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia.

Seeking change in 2009, Larimore came across artwork incorporating tree trunks: it “knocked me on the head, and I realized there is more to wood than sanding it up . . . so it looks like plastic.” Without cutting wood into pieces or using complicated joinery, he began working with salvaged timbers. “In those materials is the history of a living tree,” states Larimore. A naturalist at heart, the artist became “aware of the beauty in the processes of nature.” Maintaining a studio in Bridgeton, New Jersey, Larimore continues to seek renewal in old timbers and trunks, his work provoking contemplation on recycling, reparation, and ecology.

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