Robert Longo Pushes Boundary Between Jewelry and Art

"Bullet Hole Pendant (Cord)" by Robert Longo, in collaboration with LIZWORKS.

For decades, Robert Longo has used his large-scale, emotionally charged imagery as an exploration — to see if the intimate medium of drawing in charcoal can slow down the consumption of images.

Now, he is considering whether that translates to not only a smaller scale, but a wearable platform.

In collaboration with LIZWORKS, Longo has created a collection of jewelry — for a cause — that offers a commentary on the current state of the union, harnessing the power and size of his work in an immediate and personal way.

“In 2020, I feel more urgency to produce work that questions the way in which we can at once consume beauty and also mobilize to create change in the world,” the artist said in a statement.

The first image — a blooming rose, available as a ring, pendant or earrings — is derived from a part of Longo’s large-scale charcoal series called “The Essentials,” representative of Genesis, the creation of the universe “populated by images of our collective unconscious,” he explained.

It presents a living thing in a state of becoming, whereas the second image — a bullet hole, in a ring or pendant — offers a visual of aftermath, an act the viewer did not witness. Based on Longo’s large-scale charcoal drawing “Untitled (Bullet Hole in Window, January 7, 2015),” the piece is a statement on rampant gun violence seen across the United States, he said.

“It was essential to acknowledge this topic, rather than to dispose of it, to scroll past it,” he said. “As an artist, I feel a moral imperative, and I hope to make work that helps people to see better and to take a position.”

Longo is donating all of his proceeds from the limited-edition jewelry line, available in editions of 15, to Planned Parenthood and Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, two causes that LIZWORKS also supports, according to founder Liz Swig.

“Destruction and regeneration, fragility and hope, darkness and light, they are all contained in these two arresting pieces,” she said. “But it is entirely up to the beholder to decide which piece stands for what.”

Founded in 2014, LIZWORKS has collaborated with numerous artists to create pieces that reflect the moment while pushing the boundary between jewelry and art, allowing them to explore their ideas — and see their work from a different perspective — through an entirely new medium.

Past projects have included “Anxious Men” with Rashid Johnson, “Cameo” with Cindy Sherman, which debuted in May 2019 at the Venice Biennale, and “Charmed,” featuring artist-designed charm bracelet talismans by seven women, including Barbara Kruger, Wangechi Mutu, Mickalene Thomas, and Shirin Neshat.

“To me, the distinction between jewelry and art is immaterial,” Swig said. “As long as the pieces provoke and delight, I know I am doing something right.”

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