Though based in centuries old traditions, contemporary wood art, particularly in recent decades, pushes the boundaries of the genre. Although oftentimes descended from the functional form of the vessel—the most common type of turned wood object—many of the works represented here have been divorced from their functional lineage, and are sculptural objects rather than containers. As contemporary practitioners have reinterpreted conventional forms in exciting new ways, traditional delineations between art and craft have also become less meaningful.
For the wood artists represented here, the work of art begins with a thoughtful selection of the raw material. Whether commonplace or exotic, myriad different types of wood are painstakingly sought out for their unique qualities of color, texture, and pattern. Employing a host of different carving, turning, and finishing techniques, some artists reveal the beauty of the wood’s inherent flaws and imperfections, while others play with unconventional surface treatments. Innovative and bold, the works on view here—donated to the Museum by Brighton, Michigan, residents Robert M. and Lillian Montalto Bohlen—elevate the medium to extraordinary new heights of conceptual and technical sophistication.