Welcome to CFile’s Year-End Review! We’re revisiting our favorite posts going back to when we first started publishing. They’re arranged in no particular order. We’re not commenting on the quality of what we did (or didn’t) include. Rather, we’re reminiscing about all of the fine things ceramics has given us since our founding in 2013. Think of it as a victory lap after a fantastic couple of years. We may revisit some of these lists in the spring for a special project, so please let us know what you think in the comments. We have a large number of books to review in 2016 including two gems coming up in January; The White Road: Journey into an Obsession, by Edmund de Waal and Martha Drexler Lynne’s authoritative, American Studio Ceramics: Innovation and Identity 1940-1979.
Here’s a selection of our favorite books and catalogs about ceramics.
Jonathan Fineberg enters this minefield by explaining 20th century American culture through a meticulous look at Arneson’s career and not vice versa. The lavishly illustrated book makes a compelling argument that Robert Arneson is an artist of international importance, not “merely” an important ceramic artist, but Fineberg takes care to detail Arneson’s ceramic techniques in relation to specific works and exhibitions.
Harrod’s biography is the real thing, a magisterial achievement, a decade in the making, in an exceedingly difficult literary specialty. The depth of research, the meticulously detailed story of Cardew’s complicated life, fact-by-fact, insight-by-insight, covering 80 years of the 20th century is awe inspiring.
Clearly and enjoyably written, it details the author’s growing up in Utah with a youthful anti-heritage stance, but develops into an obsession with porcelain and, eventually, the story of his great-great-grandfather’s buried collection. Hsu moved to China to, ostensibly, work for his uncle’s company, but more honestly to uncover his family’s treasure, eager to meet his Grandmother to ask her for details about the buried porcelain.
The photographer Robert Cass photographed the work of Gareth Mason for the book More is More (published by Jason Jacques, New York, 2014). CFile has taken 14 images both published in the book as well as “outtakes” to show Cass’ remarkable eye for detail, color and texture. It is an extraordinary essay about a single pot from 2011 named Terrain.
If you have the earlier books, do you need one of the three new ones? That will depend upon three things: are you a child, do you enjoy academic writing or do you want to go on a informative and hugely entertaining romp with George?
The book features 18 works from McHorse’s Dark Light series with a revealing photo essay by Doty on each work. This publication accompanies the touring exhibition of McHorse’s ceramics which will travel through 2016, closing at the National Museum of Indian Art in Washington, D.C.
The text by Clark and Del Vecchio examines this Navajo artist’s unique form language, a mixture of tubes and volumes that connects multiple spaces; they are part-pot, part-sculpture. The work is inspired more by nature than it is traditional Indian pottery. McHorse’s muses are early modernists and they range from Constantin Brâncuși and Antonio Gaudí to Henry Moore and Edward Weston.
Brick stifles this concept and shows that a little red clay can go a long way if given to the right imagination. And the diversity of structures that brick has been used in is highlighted well: commercial, industrial, religious and residential buildings are shown in range as well as the nonfunctional; the simple decorative.
Patrimono documents Peruvian-born artist Kukuli Velarde’s mid-career retrospective which opened at ICPNA in Lima, Peru (May 10 – June 24, 2012) and is currently traveling in the United States. The biographic timeline in the book’s appendicies reveals that Velarde had her first solo show at ICPNA Gallery in Lima at the tender age of ten, so this is a full circle of sorts. The technical facility that made her a child prodigy is clear in the paintings, drawings, sculptures, (and video) that comprise the five bodies of work that are collected in Patrimonio: Cadavers, Corpus, Baroque Inferno, Sonqollay, and Plunder Me, Baby. But for Velarde, her talents are a means rather than an end: the “plundered” artifacts that she sculpts and the twisted icons that she paints reflect and reverberate with the struggles of indigenous populations as a result of European colonization.
This book will be available free, soon, from cfile. Her motivation for Unsanctioned comes from her position as an immigrant living in Johannesburg, South Africa:
“I feel as if I exist in a ‘betwixt and between’ state, hovering between belonging and being an alien. I identify my situation with a quote from William Glasser who explains ‘we are driven by five genetic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun.’ I place my unsanctioned interventions on the city’s ‘physical thresholds’ a threshold is a liminal space in itself; and the crossing of this threshold is also a liminal act.”
The Temple Potters of Puri can be read as an insight into this whole tradition. Since the 11th century Jagannatha Temple has stood in Puri. It is a guiding point for sailors, the center of the town’s economy and the workplace of 300 potters devoted to the needs of its services.
The Haas Brothers contain in their works a strong tradition of eroticism, not in the subtle and pleasant noon sun-like eroticism displayed by the constrained, but the explosive eroticism of artists like Petronius, Boccacio, Schele, Rodin and Carlo Mollino; those who would look, to borrow from this storied past, towards the Origin of the World. Sex defines their work. It lingers hidden, at times, beneath the fur and the flesh, but it’s always present.
Most moving are the accounts from other artists who viewed Price as a kind of saint. In the words of Billy Al Bengston, a surfing buddy of Price’s from his youth: “Kenny is very pure, and very stubborn, a poet and a philosopher. He doesn’t care about fame or money. He really doesn’t.” But Price did both demand and command respect as an artist, and it is perhaps a touch sad that his coronation came so late–the exhibition opened in September, four months after Price died at the age of 77.
Love contemporary ceramic art + design? let us know in the comments.