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.
Here are some of our favorite mixed-theme exhibition posts.
In this post we showcase the artist’s golden luster on glazed stoneware sculptures. Diverging from the earlier works’ themes of sensuality and warmth, his golden sculptures move us toward a higher sphere, carrying the viewer to a place of spiritual ecstasy.
(From his show in Hong Kong) Earth Mother, the creation archetype linking the sacred to the profane, is his leitmotif. It takes the form of a female torso in various stages of abstraction covered with an obsessive fecund surface of leaves, petals, nuts, fruit or pebbles (an example can be seen below). The fact that she has never disappeared from his oeuvre, and is his work most likely to be seen at art fairs, may lead one to believe that this sculptor is a Johnny-one-note and makes nothing else. I must confess that that was my judgment until about five years ago when, as I dug deeper, a broad, powerful and ambitious oeuvre I had not known revealed itself.
The artist says of her inspiration: “I feel a great peace of mind by being in nature. I am fascinated by the fact that everything comes from the same sources, namely the universe or God. With my work Cosmic Dance I try to uncover the essence of nature and to show the coherence of everything.”
Whenever I am asked to name the five or ten most important artists working figuratively with clay Youngblood is the first name that comes to mind. I never confronted a work, whether tiny or large, that did not stir the gut and discomfort the subconscious. One of my few regrets in life was the sale of a bull by the artist that an inner voice told me to acquire. I think of it every week but at least I did acquire visiting rights.
I want to venture out on the same ledge and say that the art of Mumbai-based Sudarshan Shetty is both important and gives extraordinary pleasure. And it’s not just a ceramic or clay themed work that beguiles. He paints and sculpts in a dizzying array of material (although ceramics, metal and wood seem to be his favorites) and produces installations using sound and video. His approach has an earthiness that dissolves pretension although he can do bling very well (few countries do this better than India anyway). A silver Taj Mahal atop four large gold penises is a good case in point.
The Ceramic Presence in Modern Art focuses on the work of 16 artists who have at times or throughout their careers chosen clay as their medium: Robert Arneson, Billy Al Bengston, Hans Coper, Anthony Caro, Ruth Duckworth, Robert Hudson, John Mason, Jim Melchert, Ron Nagle, Magdalene Odundo, George E. Ohr, Kenneth Price, Lucie Rie, Richard Blake Shaw, Toshiko Takaezu, and Peter Voulkos.
In this context the artist time travels to the 21st century. It’s exemplified by a Guan Yin Goddess of Compassion transformed into Marge Simpson with her children. That work is both at home due to its use of antiquity, and due to the artist’s interventions, more unsettling than it would be in, say, a white cube. It is the perfect storm. This contradiction provides a lively tension to his animation of the past.
Clark and Del Vecchio are both long time friends of the Hootkins and during their years as gallerists played a role in the development of collection. Thus their comments come from intimacy with the collectors, the objects and the process that brought them together, sprinkled with some of their signature wit and playfulness.
Tilton Gallery presented Moulting, Simone Leigh’s second exhibition with the gallery (New York, March 3 – April 25, 2015) and as always with this artist the event provided layered commentary on race and gender with touches of humor for balance. Following her over the years has been worthwhile as she expands both the mediums of ceramics and multimedia sculpture. Early in her career she was an artist in residence at the Greenwich House Pottery.
I am overwhelmed.
The incessant input of stimulation – ideas, conversations, revelations, objects, sounds, images, and reflections – are often too much to bear. Systems of understanding and history are dragged from one person, one family, one culture, to the next; prejudices, traditions, and values hitched along for the long journey forward in time.
According to an article in The Vinyl Factory, Harrison’s and Napalm Death’s Bustleholme performance pitted the legendary grindcore band against three stacks of speakers clad in ceramic tiles by Harrison. The speakers were built to resemble the buildings at the Bustleholme tenant estates, where Harrison lived as a child. Although the artist told Vinyl Factory that he doesn’t have many negative memories about the place, he said the tenancy buildings are a symbol of poverty and the social divisiveness of Thatcherism.
So it was up to Napalm Death to destroy the buildings in effigy.
During her residency at Meissen, Shechet apparently had the run of the place. She worked closely with Meissen’s artisans, absorbing their techniques and traditions and she used this knowledge for her own ends. She has achieved the rare feat of creating Meissen that transcends tchotchke and gone beyond the one-dimensional critique that is inherent in simple appropriation. The work is pure Shechet—funky and weird—at the same time it celebrates and subverts the language and craftsmanship of one of the world’s oldest and most famous luxury brands.
(From her retrospective) Shechet is skilled at seeming to ignore craftsmanship and using that as an aesthetic. She is in fact she is a remarkably accomplished ceramist. The material “dumbness” creates empathy with the viewer, confronted with a reflection their own downfalls, insecurities, and failures.
To produce this sprawling artwork, Shi spent a year in the town of Jing De Zhen where he fired more than 3,000 22-pound eggs. (The entire piece weighs more than 48-tons.) Before these eggs ended up on the floor of the exhibition gallery of the Today Art Museum in Beijing (August 25 – September 9, 2013), Shi took his creations to some of China’s most dramatic landscapes, where he took into account the scale of the scenery when determining how to place the individual eggs. In addition to the mountains of the Black Gobi and the sand dunes of Dunhuang, the work transformed grasslands and coastal regions into bizarre nesting grounds.
Nourry’s research led her to the University of Xi’an in China where she met with sociologists that study the impact of gender imbalance on societies. Xi’an is also the site of the Terracotta Warriors, funerary art from 210 BC of more than 8,000 life-sized figures that were unearthed by accident in 1974 and later declared a UNESCO site. Emulating the style and techniques of the Terracotta Warriors, Nourry sculpted eight life-sized girls, each was modeled after an individual Chinese orphan that she met through a children’s welfare non-profit from central China, The Children of Madaifu. In collaboration with Nourry, local Xi’an artisans created 108 more figures using molds, but each “Daughter” received a unique face and the signature of the artisan who modeled it, as it was done with the ancient warriors.
He approaches his medium head on; few do more with the medium’s characteristics. Some employ ceramics merely as a modeling medium and they could switch to another material with little loss of content. This is not true of Wedel. Between the fire and the clay no other substance could give us the sensual richness he draws out. The work is massively ambitious (despite the artist’s personal modesty) and the richness of glaze surfaces embedded in the writhing plasticity of the forms achieves real majesty.
Love contemporary ceramic art + design? Let us know in the comments.