TORONTO––To scroll through CFile is to listen-in on a conversation in progress—the emerging threshold of what fine arts ceramics means, and could mean. The nature of this conversation being what it is, i.e. contemporary, we can have a sharp vanishing point for contextual detail. Our dialogue here, like a cresting wave, contains an ocean’s worth of information, history, and philosophy. Yet sometimes our articles appear to reveal only the ephemeral crest of the constantly-shifting current.
Featured image: A Cup Is A Cup, 2018, ceramic & found object, 29 x 32.5 x 32.5 cm
With Léopold Foulem’s 5 x 3 = 1 at the David Kaye Gallery (September 5 – 23, 2018), however, we have an opportunity to gaze into the sea a bit. This exhibition, which explains the strange math of its title as “three works from five different series, made over the years, making one showing,” expresses over three two decades of this well-respected Canadian ceramists’ work. Beyond serving as a tasteful mini-retrospective, this is also a concise journey through ceramics’ coming of age into the contemporary, fine arts wave we now surf.
The oldest series (possibly…the date given to this one spans from 1983-2017), features clunky, colorful blocks tacked onto nondescript grey rocks. Inherently awkward objects, we may not know what to do with them if weren’t for the multiple pedestals, boxes, hedges, and wire mesh cages Foulem generously provides as their frames.
His obvious ironic humor notwithstanding, that series also sends opening salvo for the genuine legitimacy of his art-form—as evidenced by the interceding three interceding series, which bother less with frames and more directly with the works themselves. Mirroring the development of ceramics, we see him gain agency over staid expectations, forging newly-diversified taxonomies of form.
Flower-printed surfaces placed within golden metal vases, elegant throwbacks to gaudy asian-style vases, a motley of kitschy pop-art patterns across blank canvas standards…these works are cross sections of a craft emerging, liberated, into the frontiers of technology, political significance, and seriousness among the art world.
Just, not too serious. In the most recent series, Foulem returns to an origin of sorts: awkward objects inside grandiose frames. A black pedestal within a great glass box, showing off a couple of cups with, “a cup is a cup.” written on them in French and English. As if to obliterate the progress of his art, Foulem harkens to Magritte, referencing conversational contexts many decades old in Dada.
With this final series we begin to wonder if Foulem actually is as actualized as we assume. And here his accomplishment is assured, for like a breaching whale he shows the depths in every wave while at the same time soaring above them all.
All photos by: Richard Milette
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