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Image of artwork, long sheet of metal with metal looking hair/threads coming up from it


June 25–October 30, 2022

Guest Curator: 
Davira S. Taragin 

Exhibition Design by Randolph Designs – San Francisco
Iris Eichenberg: Where Words Fail is made possible, in part, by the Susan Beech Mid-Career Artist Grant from Art Jewelry Forum. This exhibition is generously supported by Goethe-Institut San Francisco, the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Barbara Waldman, and Rodney Turner and Ken Thongcharoen.

The Museum of Craft and Design’s exhibitions and programs are generously supported by Anonymous and Grants for the Arts. Additional support provided by Hunter Douglas and Dorothy Saxe.


Three logos in a row for Goethe Institute, Art Jewelry Forum, Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, San Francisco


A publication accompanying the exhibition is available online and in the museum store.

Since the mid-1970s, artists worldwide have reacted against the age-old exclusivity and preciousness of jewelry, advocating for conceptual statements creatively fabricated primarily from a wide assortment of nonprecious materials.  With a thirty-year and counting studio practice centered first in Europe and now in America, German artist Iris Eichenberg is one of the most influential contributors to this discourse. Because of her tireless interrogation into materiality, Eichenberg exemplifies what noted critic and curator Glenn Adamson calls the “postdisciplinary” artist. Instead of focusing on one medium and process, Eichenberg continually seeks to find the craft processes and combination of materials that best suit the idea at hand. An educator and prolific artist who lectures and conducts workshops worldwide, she imparts this methodology—a direct outcome of the open, creatively tolerant environment she enjoyed while working in Amsterdam—to the numerous international jewelry artists who come to study with her.

In today’s world with its outcry for social justice, Eichenberg engages the viewer in conversations that embrace such timely topics as gender and identity, the search for a safe, welcoming haven, and the veracity of reality. In fact, having lived and worked in Germany, the Netherlands, and now the United States, Eichenberg brings to contemporary jewelry and metalwork an unusual multicultural perspective. Better known for her jewelry than the objects that largely constitute her present practice, she has created work that ranges from amuletlike forms to reflective, often wistful installations. One of her underlying subjects is the body, which she references using recurrent motifs in a provocative, at times direct, at times poetic, manner.

Iris Eichenberg: Where Words Fail will be the first comprehensive mid-career survey in the United States of this artist’s aesthetic, with key loans of jewelry, objects, and installations from international private and public collections, and accompanied by an illustrated publication. The exhibition will comprise approximately forty works documenting Eichenberg’s development from her groundbreaking graduation show at the Rietveld to new statements created specifically for this exhibition.


Iris Eichenberg, Field, 2022. Photo by Tim Thayer.

Born in 1965 and raised on a farm in central Germany, Eichenberg began her professional life as a nurse. Matriculating from the Rietveld in 1994, she first served as professor and then headed its jewelry department in 2000–2007. In 2006 Eichenberg was named Artist-In-Residence and Head of Metalsmithing at CAA, a position she holds today. Eichenberg’s work has been exhibited internationally in numerous one-person and group exhibitions and is included in such public collections as the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (New York), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Texas), the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), and the Stedelijk (Amsterdam). In 2015 she was the subject of an unconventional “mid-career retrospective” at Cranbrook Art Museum for which she created an entirely new body of work reflecting her ideas, materials, and motifs.

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