Friday, October 29, 2004

'Totems to Turquoise': Indian Art Meets Craft to Inspire and Adorn

We are not left to our own devices in "Totems to Turquoise: Native North American Jewelry Arts of the Northwest and Southwest," the always illuminating, sometimes beautiful, but also excessively orchestrated exhibition opening tomorrow at the American Museum of Natural History. "Look Closely!" an annoying badgelike label exhorts in each of the 40 vitrines that dominate the show. The command singles out a bracelet, bolo tie, squash blossom necklace, amulet or some other small gleaming object for special attention; a block of tiny print explains what we should look for.

"Totems and Turquoise" is a complicated package of art and commerce, special pleading and the real thing - just like any other art exhibition, only perhaps a little more overt. It reveals two interconnected art worlds that while less familiar than those that co-exist and sometimes collide in New York City, are art worlds nonetheless.