CLEVELAND, Ohio––The following is an essay by Christopher L. Richards on Judith Salomon’s 2017 exhibition Beyond Function: The Ceramics of Judith Salomon at ARTneo (September 15 – November 17, 2018).
“Salomon’s work was groundbreaking, lush, vivid, pure postmodernism with inventive slab vessel forms that at times played with architecture.” ––Garth Clark
Featured image: Soup Tureen 13 x 15 x 11 inches. 1992 Collection of Artist
Judith Salomon, 1990 Cleveland Arts Prize for Visual Arts, creates slab-built functional ceramic vessels. They are domestic objects intended to be used, coming to life when filled with food or plants. But function isn’t her primary focus. When empty, her work is meant to be contemplated, appreciated for their structure and brightly hued geometric patches. She stated in a 1978 Plain Dealer article, “I’m concerned with their being useful, but I think a good pot shows an expression of who made it. There’s something that catches the eye, a feeling for it.” The collage like quality is more than just visual interest, it helps define mass and volume. This makes her work appear heavy, but through the delicately constructed slabs Salomon’s pieces are surprisingly lightweight.
Her work is inspired by her love of architecture and suggests the idea of sculpture. Salomon moved to Cleveland in the early 1980s to take a position at the Cleveland Institute of Art. She had never been to Ohio before and quickly took inspiration from the surrounding cityscape, building up the walls of her pieces like a stadium, the interiors reflecting the exteriors. Beyond the architectural interest she found in Cleveland, Salomon has been inspired by Constructivism and Japanese packaging. The brightly colored geometric forms that define her work from the 1980s and 90s develop a patchwork aesthetic reminiscent of De Stijl or Russian Suprematism. “Know your sources,” she always emphasized to her students, “Copying is a great tool as long as you know you are copying.” Salomon masterfully incorporates inspiration from previous movements to create her own unique works of art.
One of the more important lessons Salomon instilled in her students was to get their work out there. Salomon rarely exhibits her work locally. Instead, she focuses on generating a national and international audience. For approximately 10 years, she was represented by the Garth Clark Gallery and had her ceramics shown in New York, Kansas City, and Los Angeles. She has exhibited in one-person and group shows in San Francisco, Washington, Atlanta, and in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. The importance of expanding an artist’s reach is advice that was passed down to her by one of her professors who told her to “stay mobile.” The advice has paid off, not only in entering exhibitions, but also in doing lectures and workshops everywhere from Colorado to Tsukamoto Gakuin University in Osaka Japan.
Salomon interest isn’t in making social statements with her work. She likes the idea of setting a table with functional items, but her passion lies with space and how it is defined, “When I work, I visualize a volume and then I construct planes of clay to enclose it.” While her pieces can be used, her interest in form over function, volume over weight, brings her into the realm of the postmodern.
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