Jonathan Wahl, Pool. Charcoal, 40 x 50 inches. Courtesy of the artist
The next time you’re at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, look for a piece of 92nd Street Y. Jonathan Wahl, Director of 92Y’s Jewelry Center, recently sold his charcoal drawing, “Pool” (yes, what you’re looking at is really a drawing) to the museum. “Pool” is part of his series of large drawings (in real life, 40” by 50”) depicting Victorian mourning jewelry. The piece has just been acquired by the Met’s Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art and is expected to be on display at the Museum in “Highlights from the Modern Design Collection, 1900 to the Present, Part II” beginning May 17. “The Met is one of the most important collections in the world,” says Wahl. “It feels like receiving an Academy Award.”
Wahl was trained as a jeweler and sculptor, and started this series of drawings as a response to the launch of his own jewelry line. He noticed that some people were puzzled that he creates both sculpture and jewelry, as though, he says, they were oil and water, instead of being linked to and informing each other. Looking at some pieces of Victorian mourning jewelry one day, he realized that many of the pieces, designed entirely in black and intended for adornment during the long period mourners were not supposed to wear gold, silver or bright colors, looked like sculpture. “I thought I’d try drawing them on a much larger scale,” Jonathan explains. “If they were blown up that large, they would read as sculptures, not as brooches, and people would see the common ground between the two art forms.”
Jane Adlin, an Associate Curator in the Met’s Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern and Contemporary Art, agrees. “Jonathan Wahl’s study of 19th-century mourning jewelry is not only deeply affecting in its evocation of Victorian sensibility but is layered with provocative ideas that make the viewer think about jewelry in an entirely new way.”
Wahl has won several prestigious awards and two New Foundation for the Arts fellowships, including one for this series of “Jet” drawings. He’s been at 92Y since 1999, and he has expanded the Jewelry Center (part of our Art Center) into the largest community center-based jewelry program in the country.
Sign up now for jewelry classes beginning this month, or look into drawing classes also offered at the Art Center.
Previously: It’s In The Eye Of The Mordor