NEW YORK––Here’s a horrifying sight—a squirming pot. Like Pompeii’s buried Romans, ceramist Lauren Nauman’s clay vessels in her new LINES collection at J. Lohmann Gallery stand as pitiful witness to the agony of the kiln. And with such serenity, such grace! Just as Vesuvius’ victims captured the world’s imagination, we can’t seem to look away.
Now, I may be theatricalizing this exhibition a bit beyond Nauman’s original intention. There is nothing in her artist statement that suggests any anthropomorphism to her clay. Instead, she focuses exclusively on craft:
My work explores the boundaries within clay…I start with the industrial method of plaster moulds and slip-casting…an additive method is used to create pieces with minimal amounts of clay…the suggestions of vessels start out as straight cages of wet clay and through the power of the kilns heat and the pyroplasticity of the clay, they move like fabric to evolve into a wire-like sculpture that still holds the materiality of porcelain. Due to this process, the final form of each piece stems from minute details in the making, but mostly depends on chance.
Yet for as austere as she presents this process, I think there’s more to be read between the lines. Indeed, isn’t her whole presentation not only reading between but also morphing the lines?
Here Nauman makes a fragile cage, which only seem capable of standing upright because it was made within an industrial cast, and then she tosses the thing into a fire and lets chaos reveal its inevitable structural flaws. I don’t know if I’m just projecting something based on where I am in my own life, but there seems to be something more to that process than craft alone. Nauman’s not just a craftsperson, after all, she’s also an artist. She’s facing this world, this fragile cage that only seems capable of keeping upright because it’s kept in an industrial cast, so she must be asking, what do we make of this? ‘Exploring boundaries’ might be her nice, fine art world way of saying, ‘practicing for Vesuvius.’
Again, I might just be projecting here. I’ve got my fair share of anxiety about the inevitable chaos facing our future. Nauman may not feel the same way; maybe she knows something I don’t. Maybe she’s seen what happens when fragile cages go through the fire, how while they squirm they also turn into something like a miracle.
About the artist: Nauman was born in New Hampshire in 1990 and currently lives and works on London. She holds an MA in Ceramics and Glass from the Royal College of Art, London and a BA in Studio Art and Art Education from Emmanuel College, Boston. In 2017 Lauren received the Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize and was the Ceramic Art London’s Newcomer Winner. She has exhibited with J. Lohmann Gallery at Collective Design in 2018 and unique sculptural vessels will be introduced at The Salon Art + Design in November 2018.
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