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Athens Jewelry Week: Joshua Kosker

Athens Jewelry Week is an annual jewellery festival founded by artists Erato Kouloubi and Niki Stylianou. AJW takes place in different locations throughout the city of Athens, Greece. As a part of Current Obsession Social Club, we are following this year’s AJW programme and initiating a series of interviews with local artists, which you can follow on Current Obsession´s website or our Instagram TV channel.

As an AJW newcomer, Joshua Kosker, a jewellery artist based in Indiana is bringing the American spirit to Athens by taking part not in one, but two different exhibitions this year. However, he is not only showcasing the results of material observation and challenging his technical abilities, but curating skills as well. Kosker is evading the ‘white gallery walls’ stereotype, and we were curious to know more about his recent projects and jewellery.

[re]embody, brooch, 8.8 x 5 x 1.4 cm, soap, copper, stainless steel, sterling silver

___STEADY_PAYWALL___

CURRENT OBSESSION

Firstly, what does ´creating´ mean to you?

JOSHUA KOSKER

Creating is much like inventing. For me, it’s a way to communicate ideas—to change the way we see or do something: a different form of looking through object making. My creative practice is also how I share my experiences and tell stories. Beginning with some sort of material observation, it is a means for contributing to a deeper or more unusual understanding of our material landscape and the objects we surround ourselves with.

Soap Ring, ring, 3.2 x 1.9 x 2.5 cm, soap, sterling silver

Can you please talk a bit more about jewellery you are exhibiting this year during AJW?

The pieces I’m exhibiting are from two separate bodies of work, both of which explore materiality, but in a somewhat different manner. The soap brooches that I’m exhibiting in the both main exhibition at the Benaki, as well as Heart Failure, are much more narrative and personal in content. Each brooch contains soap that has been used and gathered from people close to me. And so, each piece is unique to its previous owner, having been essentially imprinted on by that person through a very intimate tactile relationship. The tangelo peel pieces that are on display as part of Mistaken for Strangers, are part of a more process-driven body of work that explores subversive material constructs in a jewellery context. With this body of work though, I was more interested in transforming and re-contextualizing everyday materials.

Could you describe one of the exhibited pieces in more detail? Is there any particular story connected to it?

One of my favorite stories attached to a piece is in the work Piggyback, which is part of the Athens iteration of Alliages Heart Faliure. I remember shortly after I initially conceived the soap-as-jewellery idea, I was on holiday visiting my father. He was showing off his newly renovated bathroom, at which point I was drawn to one of the more mundane features in his shower – an inconspicuous caddy filled to the brim with used bars of Dial – you know, the golden-yellow soap. Much to his surprise, I asked if he wouldn’t mind parting with his collection of soap ends, and he was happy to hand them over. Anyway, I think that caddy of soap led to something like 5 or 6 individual soap brooches, one of which is Piggyback (the common gesture of pressing two smaller pieces together to create a larger, more substantial bar). I’ve also made a couple commissions with my father’s used soap, of course, always giving the disclaimer warning to buyers about all the unmentionable places that the soap has probably been.

Copal, brooch, 6.4 x 3.8 x 0.6 cm, soap, sterling silver, stainless steel

Impermanent materials like soap, orange skin or mixed remnants are often recurring in your ouvre. How do you know you found the right material to work with or when you become obsessed with a particular material?

Nowadays anything and everything is fair game in the material landscape of contemporary jewellery. But I’m particularly fascinated with materials that not only challenge conventions of jewellery, but also challenge my technical abilities. I enjoy the tension that’s created when an object that is typically thought of as permanent and unwavering, such as jewellery, can be appreciated as something much more fragile and momentary, with the potential to change.

It’s difficult to say exactly when or how I know I’ve found the “right” material. Sometimes I just have that “a-ha moment” when an idea and a material align perfectly, and I feel it in my gut, but that’s generally the culmination of many factors coming together at the right moment. Other times I have to experiment over and over, pushing a material, sometimes to its breaking point … and it just keeps pushing right on back. Maybe it breaks and produces an unexpected result. That’s usually a good sign. It’s in those moments that discoveries are made and ideas can be pushed to the point where outcome exceeds expectations.

This year, during AJW you are also curating a group show of 6X collective. Based on which criteria you gathered the exhibiting artists?

Melis Agabigum and Rachel Andrea Davis participated in AJW18 with their collaborative exhibition What Lies Beneath. Building off the success of that experience, they asked me to work with them to collectively develop a group show for this year’s AJW. We were looking to work with other US based art jewelers so that we could continue building an American presence at AJW. We were also interested in collaborating with contemporary jewelers whose creative practices we admired and respected, not only from a material standpoint, but also regarding their process, ideas, and the content of their work.

Give and Take, brooch, 6.4 x 7 x 2 cm, soap, 24K gold plated brass, 18K gold

The exhibition ´Mistaken for Strangers´ is about similarities of artist´s seemingly different practices. What can we expect to see?

We trace “threads of commonality” between our work, both literally and figuratively, through a series of intertwining installation components and unique display methods. Expect to see a mix of traditional jewellery concerns integrated with more unconventional materials. Our show becomes not only a response to the work that makes up the show, but also becomes a response to the space and location through our treatment of the jewellery in combination with the installation materials. To bring these together into a cohesive presence, we also have a projected animation component that will illustrate some additional layers of connection between our respective bodies of work, without spelling it all out for the viewer.

How you approach curating and what are the most important aspects of presenting jewellery nowadays according to you?

When constructing a successful exhibition, aside from developing an imaginative and thoughtful idea behind the show, as well as including strong work, of course, utilizing intelligent and engaging display methods is integral. I prefer jewellery exhibitions that shy away from gallery white wall conventions and standard pedestal mounts. How does the installation and display of the work add meaning to the overall exhibition? Thinking about jewellery in an off-the-body context, and then displaying it in such a manner that changes or even elevated its meaning, is a crucial aspect to its presentation.

What are the perks of being a part of AJW19?

This is my first go at Athens Jewelry Week, so I may have to get back to you once I’ve experienced the event in its entirety. I can say at this time, however, that I’m extremely grateful to be showing with such an incredible group of international artists, and at such an important historic venue. It’s an honor, to say the least.

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