Paris-based artist JAR creates works of sheer amazement and beauty. His jewelry is vibrantly colored, exotic and yet eminently fashionable in its use of both traditional and non-traditional metals and materials: gems, aluminum, titanium, steel, even beetle wings. Despite being born in New York City and the recipient of international acclaim, JAR—Joel A. Rosenthal—is now showing the first major restropspective of his work in the United States: “Jewels by JAR”, now on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Particularly in winter, decorative arts, craft, and jewelry seem most alive. The exhibition gallery at The Met is a warming cave, teeming with carefully designed gems and stones. With over four hundred one-of-a-kind pieces, the showcase winds through the oval-shaped space. Hundreds of brooches, bracelets, earrings in striking combinations of oranges, reds, pinks, and greens in diamonds, rubies, golds, and silvers line each of the cases. Color is never wasted, either for its striking quality or its ability to create life-like familiarity in the flowers, insects, and animals fashioned into bedazzling pieces. The bouquets seem to move as their gems sparkle from different angles; berries and leeks are transformed into festive arts; a “Snake Necklace”, made of sapphires, amethysts, diamonds, silver and gold, coils menacingly around its stand—a jeweled viper, loyal to its master and poised to strike at any who might come too close.
In the center of the room, last along the exhibition’s path, are many of the most intricate and delicate pieces. Pendants, rings, and bracelets made with such detailed craftsmanship that they represent some of the most powerful pieces in the collection. Their liquid colors glitter against the darkened space, even sometimes in exaltation of each other. The representation of the years of work and creation is awe-inspiring, as a flutter of insect brooches bids farewell to the visitor at the door.
“Jewels by JAR” is open at The Met until March 9, 2014, with an accompanying catalogue by renowned gallerist and critic Adrian Sassoon, published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.