ASPEN, Colorado — Emerging artists looking for some guidance often turn to Del Harrow, one of the most erudite and thoughtful sculptors in ceramics today. His current show ‘Containers and Conduits’ with new work from both Sanam Emami and Del Harrow’ at Harvey / Meadows (June 7 – July 4, 2017) offers a lot of food for thought and in a very spatial/material sense. It also premiers his first multiples, a large handsome play on what is perhaps Robert Mapplethorpe’s most iconic and controversial work, Man in Polyester Suit (1980). In October 2015, the photograph sold for $478,000 at Sotheby’s. What follows is an artist statement by Harrow about the work in this exhibition:
Featured image: Del Harrow, Container Study 5, ceramic, glaze, 18 x 31 x 19 inches
These sculptures are about ideas of containment. I’m thinking of pots, but also of buildings, of still life painting, and of bodies – each of which is a kind of container. This work grasps at the inherent duality of containment. They can contain for a time, and, eventually also fail to contain: the pot will break, the liquid will pour out. Objects carefully composed for a still life painting will be dispersed, the body will slowly join layers of debris.
The sculptures explore surfaces and boundaries, but also holes and porosity. A hole permits a container to complete its intended function — allowing a pot to be filled or to pour. But a hole in the wrong location can also cause a pot to fail.
Holes resulting in a failure to contain may be literal, physical or poetic and metaphysical. I’m thinking here of piercing Mimbres bowls, which were placed on the faces of the dead. The ‘kill holes’ are said to allow a way for the ‘soul to escape the body.’
The works’ titles come from philosophers or artists who have explored ideas of containment and failures of containment, either directly or tangentially: Georg Simmel, Roberto Casati, Martin Heidegger, Lucie Rie and Robert Mapplethorpe. In some cases the works are direct illustrations of ideas developed by the philosopher or artist for which they are named. They are physical models of abstract concepts, like the plaster models used by mathematicians to visualize equations. Others are inspired by a form or image of an artist, then abstracted or embellished.
The work was made using several technologies. The tables/pedestals were designed on the computer and then cut from plywood on the CNC milling machine, designed with conceptual, formal and practical concerns in mind. I’m interested in the table’s language and structure and how it frames and orients the sculpture in relation to the gallery space and the viewer’s body. The tables are assembled using a custom designed press fit joinery allowing them to pack flat, and to be assembled and disassembled without hardware or glue.
Some of the ceramic sculptures are generated using digital and algorithmic models and are fabricated with computer controlled milling machines to carve plaster molds for slip casting. Others are coil built, one of the oldest techniques for forming clay. I’m interested in this “deep history” of ceramic technology, as well as more expansive ways of thinking about the nature of technology itself—as in the idea of the ‘Technology of Enchantment’ developed by the anthropologist Alfred Gell, or Michel Foucault’s essay ‘The Technology of the Self.’ Technology as with any other human tools has created to do, understand, or to think. In this larger sense, technology makes these sculptures physically, but the sculptures themselves another kind of technology—a tool to imagine ideas of containment.
Text (edited) from the artist.
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