Jason Jacques Gallery is holding its second exhibition with contemporary ceramic master Michael Geertsen: Still Life, Still Lives (New York, May 21 – Jun 21, 2014). This follows a ceramic installation at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and a show at Puls Ceramics in Brussels.
I have followed his career closely (and showed his work during my gallery days) and this is his finest show to date. All the elements that have made up the last decade of his career have coalesced into a convincing whole. His alien-insect forms peaked a year or two ago and began to become a touch feral and too random.
A degree of order has turreted within the new works and that comes from their capricious play with the Greek form. Geertsen is always at his best when he is playful and his dialog with ancient pottery is remarkably fresh, delightful and Puckish. I do think that he should consider groupings for his next show without the possibility of acquiring the work individually. A grey group and white group are a comic symposium on classical form and pouting sexual interventions.
His whimsical and animated forms are hand made but executed with machine-like precision, thanks to his background in industrial ceramics. Geertsen claims American streamline design and Italian Futurism as his primary influences.
He adds antlers, knobs and nipples in metallic gold and platinum. The gold and platinum protrusions create mirror-like reflections which, when placed next to other works, distort the forms further, shifting perceptions of their form or shape.
Geertsen’s use of gold and silver is a nod to Western decadence. He started using these elements in his work while exploring Soviet constructivism, adding a lustrous hedonism, excess and American kitsch.
The gold and silver is also a reaction against 1960’s naturalistic pottery, making the works cheeky and stylized. The artist and scholar Edmund de Waal described his work as always “questioning the place that ceramics has inhabited, as well as the place that ceramics will inhabit in the future.” Michael’s most recent innovations have made that statement even more fitting.
Geertsen’s work can be found in the preeminent collections of museums worldwide, from as close as the Metropolitan Museum in New York City to as far as the Incheon Museum in South Korea. His incredible installations can be seen all over the world, from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to a three-dimensional mural in downtown Hanoi, Vietnam.
Jason Jacques published a catalog in conjunction with the exhibition that questions ceramics’ role in Geertsen’s sculptures and with a bravura we have come to expect from this gallery, boldly contextualizing it against the high fashion magazine culture, expressed through surreal acid photography. CFile will explore this with other new photography styles next week.
Garth Clark is the Chief Editor of CFile.
Above image: Michael Geertsen, Yellow Standing Object #4, 2011, earthenware, yellow glaze, gold, 10.5 x 15.75 inches. Photograph courtesy of the gallery.
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