It would be difficult, and scandalous, to wear most pieces of art — imagine convincing someone at the National Gallery of Art to let you wear Whistler’s “The White Girl” like a sandwich board.
While the Renwick won’t allow you to try on Debra Baxter’s “Devil Horns Crystal Brass Knuckles (Lefty),” at least the piece is wearable. As an artist’s interpretation of an ordinary object, it fits right in with “Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery”: The new permanent exhibit, which traces the evolution of American studio crafts from the 1930s to today, counts among its 80-plus works a droopy vinyl toaster and a marble pillow.
“It has an instant synergy with the audience,” curator Nora Atkinson says of “Devil Horns.” “You can imagine putting this piece on and wearing it.”
Crystal Might: The quartz crystals at the top of the piece counteract its threatening, stabby aura. “It’s very tongue-in-cheek,” Atkinson says. “There’s this healing sense that comes from the crystals. It’s aggressive and healing at the same time.”
An Old Hand: This isn’t the first time Baxter has worked with this theme: “Devil Horns” is actually part of a series that began in 2009. “It started with a wonderful piece called ‘Crystal Brass Knuckles (I am going to realign your chakras motherf—er,)’ ” Atkinson says. It continued with “Crystal Brass Knuckles II” and “Devil Horn Crystal Brass Knuckles (mosh safely).”
Good Fit: “It really is a wearable piece of art,” Atkinson says. (In fact, Baxter’s work often appears in fashion magazines.) “I wanted to focus on bringing in a lot of objects that are both capital-A art and capital-C craft and allow people to traverse those different ideas.”
Break It Up: “It’s not entirely threatening,” Atkinson says. “If you punched someone with it, you’d probably do as much damage to the piece as you would to the person.”
Renwick Gallery, 1700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; opens Fri., free.
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