Disrupting Craft: Renwick Invitational 2018 at Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, through May 5, 2019

Begun in 2000, the Renwick Invitational is a biennial juried showcase for midcareer and emerging craft artists who deserve wider recognition. The makers selected for Disrupting Craft: Renwick Invitational 2018—Tanya Aguiñiga, Sharif Bey, Dustin Farnsworth, and Stephanie Syjuco—challenge convention and infuse craft with a renewed sense of activism, emotional purpose, and inclusiveness. 

Aguiñiga uses natural fibers to reveal raw personal narratives with universal feelings of vulnerability, often through performative and collaborative ways to connect communities. From utilitarian pots to abstract wall pieces, Bey explores complex cultural histories, while discovering ways his artistic process can interweave his identities as artist, educator, and father. Inspired by the narratives unfolding around him, Farnsworth manipulates wood into haunting storylines with intricate portraits of today’s youth, shining a spotlight on those inheriting societal and economic decay. Syjuco challenges perceptions of ‘types’ in America with social practice projects and the tropes of craft, uncovering the complicated and contradictory ways we understand identity and nationhood. 

These four artists show how craft can reach beyond the art world, revealing broader narratives about skilled making and the handmade. While responding to current pressing issues, they also revisit their own identities and communities. The work featured here offers moments of contemplation on the rapidly transforming world around us, and disrupts the status quo to alter our perspectives, bring us together, and lead us to a more empathetic, compassionate future.” — Renwick Gallery

Tanya Aguiñiga (born 1978, San Diego, CA) is a Los Angeles–based artist, designer, and activist. 

Tanya Aguiñiga, Hand-Felted Folding Chairs, 2006–present, hand-felted metal folding chairs. Collection of the artist. Image courtesy Tanya Aguiñiga Studio

Tanya Aguiñiga, Untitled (Driftless), 2013, raw and hand-dyed canvas, industrial felt, merino wool, cotton rope, sisal, wool yarn, linen, and Chiapas wool. Collection of the artist. Image courtesy Volume Gallery, Chicago

Tanya Aguiñiga, Palapa [foreground], 2017, powder-coated steel and synthetic hair, Nopal [background], 2017, abaca pulp, clay, alpaca, flax, succulents, iron, horsehair, cochineal (live and dead), copper, gold, and human hair. Courtesy Volume Gallery, Chicago. Image courtesy Volume Gallery, Chicago

Tanya Aguiñiga, Nopal (detail), 2017, abaca pulp, clay, alpaca, flax, succulents, iron, horsehair, cochineal (live and dead), copper, gold, and human hair. Courtesy Volume Gallery, Chicago. Image courtesy Volume Gallery, Chicago

Sharif Bey (born 1974, Pittsburgh, PA) produces both functional and sculptural pieces of pottery, using a variety of forms and textures.

Sharif Bey, Carved Blue Jar, 2007, black stoneware. Collection of the artist. Photo by Nathan J. Shaulis/Porter Loves Creative

Sharif Bey, Ceremonial Vessel I, 2016, earthenware and china shards. Collection of the artist. Photo by Nathan J. Shaulis/Porter Loves Creative

Sharif Bey, Star Child Series #1, 2017, earthenware, mixed media, and nails. Collection of the artist. Photo by Nathan J. Shaulis/Porter Loves Creative

Sharif Bey, Nestle, 2018, glass and mixed media. The Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art. Photo by Nathan J. Shaulis/Porter Loves Creative

Dustin Farnsworth (born 1983, Lansing, MI) carves wood into evocative depictions of human suffering.

Dustin Farnsworth, Promontory, 2013, pine, basswood, poplar, plywood, veneer, bendable plywood, steel, lauan, human hair, and various polychrome. Collection of the artist. Photo by Steve Mann, Black Box Photography. Image courtesy The Center for Craft

Dustin Farnsworth, XLIII, 2016, poplar, reclaimed wood, chair, pencil, and various polychrome. Collection of Sandy Berlin. Photo by Ben Premeaux

Dustin Farnsworth, styx/vodun, 2016, poplar, flowers, and various polychrome. Collection of the artist. Photo by Ben Premeaux

Dustin Farnsworth and Timothy Maddox, WAKE II, 2017, Aqua-Resin, Hydro-stone, various polychrome, canvas, and vinyl acrylic paint. Collection of the artist. Photo by Steve Mann, Black Box Photography. Image courtesy The Center for Craft

Stephanie Syjuco (born 1974, Manila, Philippines), an artist and professor based in Oakland, California, formulates large-scale installations that address contemporary social and economic issues, including political dissent and the legacy of colonialism.

Stephanie Syjuco, Cargo Cults: Head Bundle, 2016, archival pigment print. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Museum purchase. © Stephanie Syjuco. Image courtesy the artist and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia

Stephanie Syjuco, Neutral Calibration Studies (Ornament + Crime), 2016, wooden platform, neutral grey seamless backdrop paper, digital adhesive prints on laser-cut wooden props, dye-sublimation digital prints on fabric, items purchased on eBay and craigslist, photographic prints, artificial and live plants, and neutral calibrated gray paint. Collection of the artist and Nion McEvoy. © Stephanie Syjuco. Image courtesy the artist and Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco

Stephanie Syjuco, The Visible Invisible: Colonial Revolution (McCall’s), 2018, cotton muslin chromakey backdrop fabric, polyester satin, crocheted cotton, ribbon, lace, buttons and display form. Collection of the artist. Photo by Jin Zhu. © Stephanie Syjuco. Image courtesy the artist

Stephanie Syjuco, Total Transparency (Background Layer Bleed), 2017, hand-sewn quilting cotton. Courtesy the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York. © Stephanie Syjuco. Image courtesy the artist, Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco, and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York

The exhibition is organized by Abraham Thomas, the Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge for the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Images courtesy Renwick Gallery.