Cooper Hewitt says...
Francisco “Frank” Rebajes (1907-1990) was a self-taught designer and metalsmith. Born in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic he arrived in New York City in 1923, and by the early 1930s, he was using plumber’s tools to transform cans and scrap metal into animal shaped sculptures. Rebajes first exhibited these works at the Washington Square outdoor show, where Juliana Force, then director of the Whitney Museum, purchased them all. Using the money from this sale, Rebajes rented his first store in Greenwich Village, where he began developing what would become his emblematic line of copper jewelry. Although copper made up the majority of the production, Rebajes also used silver, gold, semi-precious stones, enamel, and on occasion found objects. His jewelry quickly gained popularity and in the late 1930s, his work was included in exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
With his newfound success, Rebajes upgraded to larger storefronts in Greenwich Village, until in 1942, he settled in an expansive space at 355 Fifth Avenue called Rebajes Jewelry and Gifts. Designed by Puerto Rican architect José Fernández, the store boasted an avant-garde interior that reflected the Modernist principles that were taking hold at the time. At its peak Rebajes sold his works at over 500 retail stores around the United States and his shop was self-proclaimed as the “World’s Finest Display of Hand Crafted Copper.”
In 1960, Rebajes moved to Torremolinos, Spain, where he continued to make jewelry, however by the 1970s, he began to concentrate more on kinetic sculptural works he called Ovulo until his death in 1990.