One of the treats of Design Miami in December was seeing Tony Marsh’s new and unexpected work. Yet it has been in development for five years as the artist has slowly and carefully explored a new phase in his art. These works can be seen now at the Harvey Meadows Gallery in Aspen, (March 8 – April 8) a gem of gallery run by knowledgeable potters Sam Harvey and Allegheny Meadows.
What was unexpected was the shift from work that was didactic (particularly his perforated vessels) and in many way distanced from the kiln. Overnight he has emerged as a central player in the radical glaze movement (my term) that includes amongst others Gareth Mason who was reviewed in last week’s issue.
As Marsh explained it, “Much of what I made over the years is an attempted call to the sublime but from an empirical or seemingly rational stance. Now I am shifting towards making works that are less rational, full of color and engaged in transformational processes but still calling to the sublime.”
Although there is more control than it seems in the powerful, blistered, lave-like glazes he now uses, there is part of the result that is not predictable. Marsh is having to confront the capriciousness of chance, always a double edged sword. But the central obsessions remain:
“I am still as preoccupied as ever with the vessel as my primary vehicle of expression. My work is anchored in global cultural history of pottery and the transformational forces of nature. While the vessels that I make are not utilitarian, nor do they specifically refer to a historical pottery type or style, I use them as a device to address the primal. On a simple level they pay homage to what pottery has always done; hold, store, serve, preserve, commemorate and beautify.”
Marsh is a graduate of Alfred University, Alfred, New York. Prior to that he worked for three years as an assistant to Tatsuzo Shimaoka, Living National Treasure, in Mashiko, Japan. For the last 25 years he’s lived and worked in Long Beach California and he is a professor of art and head of the ceramics department at California State University, Long Beach. Marsh has lectured, taught and exhibited across the U.S., Europe and Asia.
His ceramic art can be found in many public and private collections around the world including the Museum of Art & Design and Metropolitan Museum of Art , New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of Art, Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Toronto, Newark Museum of Art, Newark, New Jersey, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Museum of Contemporary International Ceramic Art, Inchon, South Korea.
Garth Clark is the Chief Editor of CFile.
Above image: Ceramic vessel by Tony Marsh, part of an exhibition at the Harvey Meadows Gallery in Aspen from March 8 to April 8. Photograph courtesy of the gallery.
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