SAN FRANCISCO — Just when we thought we couldn’t like Ron Nagle any more than we already do, we saw his interview with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. You can click here to see the interview.
Nagle, we were happy to learn, is fascinated by how artwork and language interact. In this short four minute interview, Nagle will tell you why many of his works went untitled and why he changed his mind, he rails against clinical jargon such as “ceramic sculptor” to define what he does, and he borrows phrases from our more verbose and preening critical colleagues, describing how people interact with his work in comically hushed and awed tones. It’s very refreshing to know that we’re not the only people who roll our eyes at how language surrounding art is more performance than communication.
As an example: he talks about his fascination with cups and then drops a term that had to have been dreamed up by someone who was too academic for their own good: “vestigial handle.” You can almost imagine the person who wrote it patting themselves on the back. Here’s why that rankles Nagle.
“These are the kind of things that trivialize ceramics. Because how many shows have we seen… Feats of Clay, or In His Cups? There’s too much language about it. That’s the problem.”
Nagle approaches aging with a similar sense of humor. He went bald in his twenties, around the same time he was in a psychedelic band called The Mystery Trend (we linked one of their songs below). As with language, the artist values honesty in baldness. To approach it in any other way is suspicious. His piece Vanity Scramble (2011) addresses that and (surprise!) one can see a shade of Donald Trump in the work. In an effort to preserve what little hair he has left, the hair that remains looks alien and sinister. What’s worse: that’s not something you can pull off on your own, someone has to help you do that to yourself.
“(About Donald Trump) You cannot trust a guy with that kind of haircut. You can’t. It’s beyond description. I don’t know where it’s coming from. There’s a swirl and a spray?”
Many thanks to Nagle and to SFMOMA for one of the better artist interviews we’ve seen recently. Play us out, Mystery Trend.
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily.
Do you love or loathe these sentiments about contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.