Voicing the Woods: Jeremy Adams, Instrument Maker Exhibit extended through March 5, 2017
The curator’s job sounds relatively simple: just surprise us. Show us something we haven’t seen before, or lately, or in such depth, or with such clarity. Try to avoid the predictable and familiar, the market approved or academically sanctioned, or what other curators have already done. Try to step outside your museum’s comfort zone or carefully manicured institutional persona with something eccentric, an intuitive leap. After all, there is plenty of art out there.
—Roberta Smith, “Museums Embrace the Unfamiliar” New York Times, September 16, 2016
The current exhibition at the Cape Ann Museum would be music to Ms. Smith’s ears. Voicing the Woods: Jeremy Adams, Instrument Maker is the unpredictable, eccentric delight she calls for. Indeed, the Museum has leaped forward with its intuition that Mr. Adams’s peerless craftsmanship has exactly the genius and beauty for the rapture of an unsuspecting public. And from all accounts, its public has agreed!
A formal lyricism in this exhibition commands attention to more than one art form. From the fabrication of brass hinges to bone keys (not to mention the skunk-tail sharps and cow-toenail couplers!), to sculptural stands and the exacting, exquisite joinery that must move unerringly to create music, the show reveals the prodigious skill and artistry of Jeremy Adams, one of the most gifted musical instrument makers in the United States. Meticulously presented in the Museum’s largest gallery, the exhibition showcases an impressive selection of harpsichords inspired by Flemish and French designs of the 17th and 18th centuries, a chamber organ, a clavichord, a demonstration organ chest, and a beautiful, witty silent keyboard, all built in their entirety by Adams in his Danvers, Massachusetts atelier. Curated from over 40 instruments built since the 1960s, these works reside in public and private collections around the world. The exhibit’s centerpiece is the stunning French (Blanchet) double-manual harpsichord with its very modern stand, which emerged from the Adams workshop this summer and is featured in events for the duration of the exhibit, sometimes in tandem with other instruments in the room. Also in the gallery, Paul Cary Goldberg’s elegant photographs, commissioned by the Museum, document the Adams workshop—the tools, details, atmosphere and the droll, quirky personality from which the instruments come.
In addition to the keyboards in the gallery, the Museum displays a selection of Adams’s furniture in the adjoining 1804 Captain Elias Davis House, offering an interesting contrast to the period furniture in the House. The design and construction of Adams’s furniture and objets d’art derive, in part, from the refined casework of his musical instruments, and in part from a lifelong interest in painting and sculpture. Commissions for new pieces show an ever-evolving freshness to his work, liberating Adams from the stringent requirements of instrument making, and resulting in highly individual and sometimes quite humorous treatments of materials both found and made. One might say that Mr. Adams has left the academy behind.
It is our hope that you will be inspired and hasten to Gloucester for this unusual banquet of instruments and furniture now in felicitous proximity with Fitz Henry Lane, the Folly Cove Designers and all the other luminaries who inhabit this “jewel of a museum.” In whatever way we could make your journey to Boston’s North Shore manageable, we would enthusiastically assist. The exhibition runs through March 5, 2017.