These features on Bharti Kher and Shawanda Corbett continue our summer-long focus on #BlackLivesMatter and artists of color who once sidelined are now, quite literally, changing the face of contemporary ceramics today.
LONDON––Shawanda Corbett‘s Neighbourhood Garden (June 16 – July 31, 2020) at Corvi-Mora was the artist’s first exhibition at the gallery. The exhibition featured multi-disciplinary works reflecting on the artist’s experiences growing up, childhood memories and an appreciation of her community.
Corbett’s ceramic works explore common tropes from “the Hood,” shedding light on characters which are often invisible or reduced to stereotypes. In giving them sculptural representation, Corbett strives to give these figures the dignity and humanity they seldom have in mainstream perceptions. The ceramics are in pairs: one suggesting the personality and the other the appearance of each character.
The surface interventions were painted in response to various jazz musicians’ music. Corbett began with intuitive improvisational dance in response to the music and in dialogue with the ceramics. The painterly patterns and shapes are like dance notation––capturing Corbett’s presentness in her ephemeral experience. Luster and gold were employed to emphasize the worth and status of certain characters in the artist’s eyes.
The works on paper describe different childhood episodes: memories and experiences that are often shared, made even more precious by their universality.
Corbett’s interdisciplinary practice addresses the question of what is a complete body, looking at the different cycles of a human’s life through cyborg theory. She uses her perspective as a woman of color with a disability to root this theory into reality. Corbett was born without legs and has one arm. Even so, she shapes clay with one hands, as Daily Sabah writes.
“It is very difficult to do something with one hand that people usually do with both hands. My professors also faced some difficulties while teaching me because they had never worked with some who has only one hand. Other people could learn much easier than me. But, I worked very hard and overcame all the difficulties,” she said.
Corbett’s performances are developed in response to the architecture of the exhibition space. Collaborating with choreographer Albert Corbett, she sets up a live inner dialogue with her surroundings. Corbett’s performances incorporate her ceramics practice; the human body, architecture, and dance leave their traces on her ceramic vessels and surfaces.
Corbett recently received Tate Britain‘s £10,000 bursaries in place of this year’s Turner Prize.
The jury commended the power of her performance Blackbird Mississippi at the Serpentine Gallery in which the artist drew parallels between a slave’s voyages on the underground railroad to the artist’s own journey towards rehabilitation. The jury also noted the current exhibition of jazz-inspired paintings and hand-thrown ceramics Neighbourhood Garden at Corvi-Mora, London.
Text (edited) from and images courtesy of Corvi-Mora.
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