It takes a minute for your eyes to adjust to the darkness in the exhibition Jewels by JAR (on view through March 9, 2014). The walls are black, the ceilings are high, and glass cases lined with red velvet are set into walls and columns. Warm lights behind the glass spotlight the artwork within.
Jewels by JAR features the work of the jewelry designer Joel A. Rosenthal, who works in Paris under the name JAR; this exhibition at the Metropolitan is the first retrospective of his work in America. Rosenthal's sculptural jewelry designs are bold, unique, and brilliant; he uses precious stones in vibrant colors, metals such as gold and aluminum, and nontraditional materials such as beetle wings in his work. His pavé technique—placing small stones so close together that they look like one continuous surface of jewels—and use of subtle gradations of color give the hard, geometric gem stones a very painterly, fluid feel.
Rosenthal also plays around with the idea of natural versus man-made in his pieces that aren't made from gem stones. He designs pendants that look like different kinds of nuts but are actually sculpted out of wood. And then there are witty food objects, such as wooden almond cakes and bagels, that are surprising and hilarious.
The concentration of expensive, precious stones in the gallery might seem over the top, but it's balanced by the design of the exhibition. There are no object labels next to the pieces but rather numbers that you can look up in a booklet at the exhibition entrance to find titles, dates, and materials. This minimalism, combined with the dark walls, muted lighting, and soft red velvet, gives the room an intimate feel that is both unexpected and beautiful, and really makes the individual pieces of art shine.
Jewels by JAR