The first museum survey of sculptor Arlene Shechet, curated by Jenelle Porter, is currently on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. The exhibition, titled Arlene Shechet: All at Once (June 10th-September 7th, 2015), collects more than 150 objects made over 20 years for an up close look at her diverse practice. Her work plays with the transformative properties of materials like, ceramic, concrete, plaster, and mouth-blown crystal, making sculptures that dig into the uncomfortable corners of the viewer’s psyche.
In their review of the exhibition, The Boston Globe explains the effect of Shechet’s work:
“Shechet’s work is ostensibly abstract, but it has a disarming — and occasionally alarming — ability to connect us with wordless interior cadences, forgotten pains, and epiphanies. Through recondite experimental processes, Shechet finds forms, colors, and textures for states of being that can approximate comedic collapse, gritted resistance, erotic exuberance, spiritual confusion, luxurious indolence, and private dismay. The approximations, mind you, are not in the work; they enter the equation only as we try to account for them.”
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.
Shechet’s career of experimentation has resulted in an impressive display of materials and themes including some of her most recent work, a result of her residency at the renowned Meissen Porcelain Manufactory in Germany. This body of work draws on ceramic history, collaging dismembered figurine body parts, pottery forms, and patterns into compositions and piles. Shechet’s Meissen work is not pictured here, but can be seen on her website.
Both The Boston Globe and The New York Times gave powerfully positive reviews of the retrospective.
The Boston Globe called So and So and So and So and So and On and On:
“nothing less than a work of genius.”
And The New York Times said about Arlene Shechet’s work:
“This is some of the most imaginative American sculpture of the past 20 years.”
We won’t go as far as to make the same claims, but let us know what you think of the retrospective in the comments.
Justin Crowe is Writer and Director of Operations at CFile.