DENVER — On his faculty page for the University of Colorado Boulder, Scott Chamberlin says he thinks abstraction is important because it is evocative in both complicated and fundamental ways. He tries to make work that is “understood or apprehended through involuntary or unconscious urgings.” In short, he sometimes bypasses your intellect entirely and aims right at your gut. His forms eventually do pass through your head, but that’s down the road a ways.
Above image: Scott Chamberlin, Ulo, 2015, glazed ceramic, 19 x 12 x 13 inches
His most recent exhibition Heads showed at Robischon Gallery (Denver, February 11 — April 2). It seems to address that detour. The exhibition continues Chamberlin’s complicated relationship with thinking and feeling as he tries to pinpoint where art meets intellect.
Heads showcases the artist’s newest series of ceramic wall sculptures that continues an ongoing exploration of Chamberlin’s interest in the body as form. With his inimitably provocative, humorous and economical configurations, the artist’s subject for the series, the head, represents where the mind resides; the center of intellect, thought, memory, understanding and the repository for perceptions of identity. Fittingly so, it is also the locus of imagination – fertile ground for the vision of Chamberlin. With a spare sensibility toward capturing the essence of abstracted human form, Chamberlin is never averse to place himself at the intersection of the eccentric and the elegant – a location where the strange can morph into the seductive, and the disturbing into something beautiful. For Heads, an aspect of Chamberlin’s work, is to offer a shift from a simple rudimentary reading of the universal head-form into one that conveys a more confounding, complex and mysterious content.
In equal measure to their potent forms, the artist’s sculptures are viscerally inviting with their surprising textured clay surfaces with vibrant or lustrous glazes. Formally, each head holds its own personality from one to the next – such as a seemingly elemental but bizarre sweep of clay atop a round form implies hair on one work, but as an element for a different head, twigs suggest a beard. The combined vocabulary is both primal and refined with unexpected color and highly textured finishes ready to engage the eye. The titles of the sculptures designate each work with a word that means “head” in various languages such as Catalan, Esperanto, Japanese and Yoruba. Yet, Chamberlin’s initiative is to also take the viewer away from conclusions that are overly reliant on the intellectual to contemplate the work, as it is the experiential perceptions of the evocative that transcends the intellectual. Chamberlin states, “I seek to make work that presents itself before language forms, before it can be given a name. In this very complex, information based world, it appears experience or assimilation without language is diminished.” Within this context, Chamberlin’s heads offer the viewer a different and open-minded perspective. Meeting face to face with each new work, a kind of reverberation is possible – purely seeing each sculpture’s wonder in form or sensing the magic that a past idol from another culture might possess. Felt and imagined, ancient and contemporary, Chamberlin’s Heads offer both the compelling vernacular of abstraction and an investigation deeply rooted in the personal as well as the universal.
A professor at the University of Colorado, Scott Chamberlin has an MA from Alfred University, Alfred, New York. He has been the recipient of numerous honors and fellowships including a Pollack Krasner Foundation Grant, Creative Faculty Fellowships, University of Colorado at Unitec in Auckland, NZ and The European Ceramic Work Centre, in s’- Hertogenbosch, Holland, two National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowships and a Colorado Council on the Arts & Humanities Visual Arts Fellowship. He has been exhibited both nationally and internationally in solo and group exhibitions including Denver Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, CU Art Museum, University of Colorado, Boulder, Taiwan Ceramics Bienniale, Taipei,Taiwan, Pewabic Pottery, Detroit, Michigan, and other venues in Portugal, Sweden, New Zealand, London and the Netherlands, to name a few. Chamberlin is a sought-after visiting professor and artist-in-residence his work is included in the permanent collections of CU Art Museum, University of Colorado, International Museum of Ceramic Art, Alfred, New York, Denver Art Museum, Dordrect Museum, Dordrect, Holland, Everson Museum, Syracuse, New York, Museum Het Kruit Huis/European Ceramic Work Centre, s’-Hertogenbosh, Holland and Daum Museum, Sedalia, Missouri.
Text (edited) and images courtesy of the gallery.
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