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.
Below are our favorite pot-themed exhibitions from the last few years.
“If you do not know the installation art of Johnston that is a loss. If one were to compile a list of the top practitioners of this genre in ceramics, he would need to be near the top. At the same time you can be forgiven for this omission because Johnston has not shown much outside Canada.”
(From Refuse Culture) All the forms were made new and were not part of Johnston’s prior repertoire, so he was not just retreading yesterday’s product. The vessels were all (more or less) identical as they stepped back, melted into the crowd and served the collective vision.
Dark Light is the first traveling exhibition of this groundbreaking Navajo (Diné) artist. McHorse, a first-generation potter, is considered among the most innovative artists working today creating vessel-based art that is undecorated and abstract, with formal qualities indebted more to modern sculpture than to Southwestern culture.
Fascinated with The Peacock Room both for its lyrical union of painting and architecture and for its dramatic story of patronage and artistic ego, Waterston created an installation that hints at parallels between the excesses and inequities of the Gilded Age (and the high society in Europe that it mimicked), and the social and economic disparities of our own time. At the same time, the work raises questions about patronage and the relationships between artists, collectors and institutions.
Collaborating with Dixon Glass, a manufacturer of custom laboratory glass, de Vries selected damaged pieces of ceramics and created glass vessels, using the original shape of the broken object. These ‘ghost’ vessels hold the fragments of the original pieces and create a conversation about the history, value, and beauty in something that could be perceived as worthless.
Woodman is widely celebrated for her exuberant and vivid ceramic works that defy categorization as painting, sculpture or pottery. Her singular experimentation with the vase form, as a contemplative and pictorial, as well as functional object, spans over 50 years—from producing utilitarian pots in the 1950s, to collaborations with the Pattern and Decoration movement in the late 1970s and 1980s, to her 2006 exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the institution’s first (and only) for a living artist working in ceramics, and its first (and only) retrospective for a living woman artist. In her recent mixed-media sculptures and installations, Woodman revisits the history of ceramics as a tradition of painted form, generating spectacular possibilities for the extension of painting into plastic space.
The result is At World’s End—The Story of a Shipwreck: Works by Diane KW first shown at the Groninger and now in Honolulu. Shard art is a crowded genre in ceramics but KW’s work sets a new standard for beauty, concept, context and history. She blends it all into a distinctly contemporary installation. What gives particular grace to these works is the ordered but hypnotic penmanship, calligraphic art in its own right, which is evident in the documents she copied and applied form the Dutch East India Company’s archives.
“I make sculpture that is born from the potters wheel. Many sections are thrown and built to create a constructed beauty, rhythm, and symmetry in abstract form. I am interested in the travel and progression of layered three dimensional pattern, and how this can create different qualities depending on the workings of three essential factors:
– The construction: Simplicity to complexity. Circular or fragmented.
– The rhythm pattern: Different rhythms produced through the construction and the placement of parts.
– The viewing position and depth in form: Horizontal, vertical or angular. Inside space or enclosed rhythm.”
The last time he attended an NCECA meeting he was an unknown, struggling potter (he had to give it up for a while because he could no longer afford firings. That is how he moved to found materials and his current career). Now he returned one of most celebrated young contemporary artists internationally, a culture star that has been burning very brightly the last few years.
Why the groupings? The artist explained his purpose in massing his pots, “I’ve been thinking about new ways to make pauses, spaces and silences, where breath is held inside and between each vessel, between the objects and the vitrines, the vitrines and the room. In working with the vessel, working with porcelain and with colors that express the great history of Oriental ceramics, but also the colors of modernism and minimalism; this seems to be enough material to be getting on with.”
He approaches clay with an unbridled, puppy-like love but without reverence. He is part of a school that has been problematically named “sloppy craft.” Certainly his craft sensibility is loose and informal, in part this is the product of risk taking and experimentation. According to Baltic Plus, “Wine’s approach is chance-driven as his firing processes add shapes, forms and colors that are often not entirely predetermined.”
One of the great moments in the life of an arts writer is when a talent one has watched for decades, admired and yet felt it was not fully realized, bursts into full bloom in a way that is unexpected and breathtaking. It’s much like a gardener patiently watching a plant that suddenly, but not without anticipation, produces unimagined flowers. This what Julian Stair has done with Quietus: The vessel, death and the human body, a touring exhibition now at its last venue (Somerset House, December 4, 2013 – January 26, 2014).
Patuszyńska understands that a factory becomes brain dead the moment the last staff member leaves the building and padlocks the door. But other vital organs survive through transference. The contents of that space immediately begin an incremental process of rebirth via natural mutation. The heart continues to beat and lungs still gasp for air. Oxidation becomes the primary life giver. Mold adds growing patches of green and brown, metals rust, wood splinters and rots, leaking roofs spread water that in turn serves decay. Rats move in, insects thrive. As plaster molds erode, they curiously begin to resemble ancient bones. All of this is evidence that a new, vigorous cycle of life has begun. And given enough time, everything manmade will be either gone or unrecognizable.
We’ve come across photographs from Milan that show an enormous room lined with grids of what appear to be plates. What follows is an audio video experience that, although it puts us more in the mind of clubbing than eating, looks fascinating. It reminds us of an earlier Miralda work from 1989, Santa Comida.
If there is any lingering doubt about Ai Weiwei’s genius as an art phenomenon, @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz (San Francisco, Alcatraz Island, September 27, 2014 – April 26, 2015) dispels those concerns. The show is a magnificent statement on about 20 different levels and is as sly as a devil. Even without the pointed human rights issues and barbs directed against the Chine regime in Ai’s art, all one has to read is “Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz” and then note the fact that he cannot attend his own exhibition, and the job is done.
The judicious exhibition is designed and conceived by Deniz Artun, director of Galeri Nev in Ankara, which has been representing Ebüzziya since 1992, brings attention to the artists unique response to vessels, that have been crafted in the same geographic region, between 2500-1500 BCE, by the Hatti, the Ancient Hittites, Kultepe and Van-Urmiya cultures, as well as the Phrygians, around 900 – 800 BCE. The participation of other art collectors from Ankara in this event is an equally significant outcome of this show, as they have contributed the quasi totality of Ebüzziya’s vessels, present in the exhibition. By responding to Artun’s invitation, they too have collaborated with Yüksel Erimtan’s grand gesture, by sharing treasured works from their own collections, with art lovers in Ankara, and beyond.
Love contemporary ceramic art + design? Let us know in the comments.