Sometimes the most important posts get stalled in Cfile’s queue and either do not get published or appear much later. One such example is a book and exhibition review of Geert Lap: Specific Objects. Its is exceptional, visually documenting ceramics’ greatest minimalist, who died in 2017, superbly, rationally and beautifully Dutch in its design, with a unique photo concept.
Erik and Petra Hesmerg spent years traveling the world to document Lap’s colorful, serene works in private and public collections. In addition to faithful, sharp studio images of the work, we get to see Lap’s pots as they live today in various private homes.
It would be almost perfect but for an unfortunate attempt by one of the two essayists to locate Lap in an academic realm. The first essay by Titus M. Aliens captures Lap’s career succinctly. Its title, ‘Is it a vase or is it art,’ is unfortunate and outdated after more than a decade of ceramics being embraced in the fine arts. “Why not both,” I can still remember Lap saying.
The real damage is done by Ernest van Alphen’s essay ‘The Specific Objects of Geert Lap’ that gives the book its mistaken title. No doubt the author was trying to promote Lap’s art to a higher station – positioning him in the Minimal canon with Ellsworth Kelly (who was an enthusiastic collector of Lap’s work), Carl Andre, Donald Judd and André Volten–but in the process he revealed just how blind he was to Lap’s essence as an artist.
Let me add that I was Lap’s dealer in the US for many years, was close and had great love for him as a person. He was one of the most remarkable and ‘pure’ artists with whom I have worked. In full disclosure, this relationship is dealt with at some length in the book by Aliens.
As a result, I know Lap’s feelings about the conceptual world that van Alphen suggests was his true calling. I have witnessed Lap stand and leave dinner parties when art theory began to dominate conversation. My argument is not that Lap cannot be the specific object that the writer suggests but that he was first and foremost a potter. And his objects were first and foremost, pots.
The assertion by van Alphen that his pots are not pots but are ‘specific objects’ because they did not have the anthropomorphic structure of the vessel–no belly, collar, neck or foot, is simply ludicrous and defies the evidence the book gives of the opposite. It would have infuriated Lap.
Before all else, Lap was a sensualist and the body, deeply erotic in its understatement, was at the core of his aesthetic. This writer’s blind ignorance of what a pot is, its glory and its majesty, simply disqualifies him to write about Lap and his art.
With that said, this 272-page book should be, for its visual record at least, in every library. It was published by Nai0101 Publishers, Rotterdam in separate English and Dutch editions and a luxury limited edition was also produced. The editions were modest but some copies are still available from Amazon.
Images that follow are drawn from the exhibition Geert Lap: Specific Objects that the Design Museum De Bosch presented from June 1 – August 18, 2019.