Evolution/Revolution brings together the textile work of designers from the U.S., Britain, Europe, South and Central America, and Japan, and draws philosophical parallels between these contemporary artists and those of the Arts and Crafts Movement of 19th-century Britain. The exhibition is organized around the themes of Storytelling, Experimentation and Materials, Collaboration, and Art and Life — key ideas that spring from the Arts and Crafts spirit.
One of the most widely influential art and design movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Arts and Crafts Movement was an aesthetic and political response to a world stripped of meaning by the Industrial Revolution. It sought to right this wrong by championing beauty and truth in everyday objects, and in the process profoundly changed architecture and the decorative arts. Members of the movement were especially appalled by the inhumane work conditions created by the factory system. By celebrating the honesty and authenticity of hand work and the traditional arts, they sought to reconnect the makers and users of objects through a more holistic approach to work itself.
The movement offered a model for reform: work would be more meaningful if factories did not dominate production, and life would be better if cheap machine-made goods were replaced by objects that were carefully designed and crafted. The movement abhorred badly designed goods but did not necessarily reject technology out of hand. Rather, it sought to use it in ways that facilitated, rather than fragmented, the process of making.
Arts and Crafts philosophy has continued to influence new generations, as we see in the work of the contemporary artists and designers of Evolution/Revolution. Like their predecessors, these new designers grapple with mass production and consumerism. Using state-of-the-art technology as well as traditional methods, they are redefining what “handmade” means. By developing humane and ingenious solutions to contemporary problems such as sustainability and cultural preservation, they, like the Arts and Crafts artists of the 19th century, are the creators of a new tradition.