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image icon 'Pendant', 1977

'Pendant', 1977
Art Gallery of South Australia


This is a gold and stainless steel pendant made by Frank Bauer (1942-) in 1977. Measuring 22.0 cm x 5.5 cm, it consists of a decorative rectangular unit attached to a neck chain. The rectangular unit is composed of small open cubes made from squared rods of gold metal. These cubes are arranged in rows of six, one row below the other and stepped to create a staircase-like structure. Within some of the rows are curved plates of shiny stainless steel. The neck chain is made up of five linear units of thin, round rods made of gold metal with a catch at its centre.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • is a work by German-born Frank Bauer, an Adelaide-based, internationally recognised designer of lighting, jewellery and other objects - Bauer trained as a musician and architect in Germany before studying blacksmithing, welding, gold- and silversmithing and enamelling (1962-65); in 1966 he joined the Kilkenny Design Workshops in Ireland, but returned to Germany the following year to attend art schools in Kassel and Hamburg; in 1972 he moved to Sydney, where he established a metal workshop, and then to Adelaide where he worked at the Jam Factory Workshops (1975-78); in 1979 he moved to London and returned to Adelaide in 1984 to lecture at the School of Design, University of South Australia; in 1988 he left teaching to work full-time at designing lighting, furniture and sculpture; in 2000 his solo exhibition 'Frank Bauer: Designer - jewellery, metalwork, lighting 1975-2000' was presented at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, and the Jam Factory Contemporary Craft and Design, Adelaide; a 'Bauer kettle' has been commemorated on an Australian stamp
  • reflects, through its grid-like design, Bauer's exploration of and interest in geometrical structures - this interest has been present in his jewellery since the 1970s; in the mid and late 1970s Bauer produced a series of gold rings, neckpieces and brooches that utilised grid forms, usually built of 5 mm cubes in gold silver and palladium (a charcoal-grey form of platinum), and incorporated curved stainless steel reflectors; curator and art historian Margot Osborne has described these works as 'architecture in miniature'
  • demonstrates Bauer's ongoing interest in the interactive capacity of jewellery - Bauer's jewellery of the early 1960s clearly indicates his preference for a formal, constructive approach to form; Bauer also has an interest in kinetics and optical dynamics, which he shares with a number of contemporary artists, particularly Alexander Calder (1898-1976), Sol Le Witt (1928-), Bridget Riley (1931-) and Jesus Raphael Soto (1923-); after seeing an exhibition of Soto's work in 1969, Bauer began to explore jewellery structures that he described as having 'a dialogue with the wearer'; Bauer's response at the time was to make jewellery pieces with framing structures within which shapes or lines vibrated, rolled or moved in controlled paths
  • is an excellent example of how Bauer has been able to continue to explore and extend the basic concept of jewellery as something physically and visually interactive - around 1975 he made objects that could loosely be described as rings and bracelets that clamped or screwed onto the limbs of the wearer; these were sometimes spring-loaded so that they could respond to and fit the wearer; in 1974 Bauer was commissioned to design a trophy for the David Jones fashion awards, which he constructed from tiers of concave and convex highly reflective discs; this commission led Bauer to create a series of jewellery designs in which curved and reflective units were incorporated into miniature grid structures (as in 'Pendant')
  • is an example of an approach to function and design that Bauer has been able to apply across a wide range of media and applications - in addition to jewellery, Bauer has designed domestic-ware and lighting; this wide-ranging creative ability stems in part from his formative experience as a young designer; Bauer's father, Carl, trained as an architect at the Bauhaus, a German art and architecture school (1919-33), which had the primary objective of unifying art, craft and technology; the younger Bauer was exposed to the work and ideas of a range of designers, architects, metalsmiths, silversmiths and sculptors, many of whom worked across disciplines and media
  • was made by one of several silversmiths who emigrated to Australia from Scandinavia and Germany in the 1960s and 1970s - this group included Helge Larsen (arrived 1961), Ragnar Hansen (arrived 1972), Vagn Hemmingsen and Hendrick Foster (both arrived 1974) and Johannes Kuhnen (arrived 1981); an important element in the development of metalwork and jewellery in Australia was that in addition to producing their own work, these artists (including Bauer) worked as teachers; a number of these designers favoured an organic, body-responsive approach to form, whereas Bauer's jewellery designs operate on the basis of counterposing the sensuous curves of the body with the beauty of geometry.