SANTA FE––All hail The Vase. In Garth Clark’s recent curatorial undertaking, Vasa Vasorum, the mighty Vase is brought to the forefront as it is reimagined and refilled with contemporary meaning. As you wander through the work of 29 artists from all over the world at Peters Projects Gallery in Santa Fe, Clark invites you to draw your own conclusions from “a form as old as civilization.” Clark’s curatorial statement is below, as well as in the catalog, which is now available in cfile.library.
Santa Fe: Peters Projects Gallery, 2018
Ai Weiwei’s Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995) is my leitmotif for this exhibition, my inspiration. “A smashed vase,” you might ask? Yes, it is that to but it is also a gesture that contains emotional power. I am completing a book about his ceramic oeuvre and this triptych symbolizes his radicalism to perfection. Vases are things of value in one’s home, not necessarily just in monetary terms but also emotional ones. An heirloom passed down through generations, sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly, they live in a unique place in our psyche. In Weiwei’s case the vase, although not powerful, is 3000 years old so the crash resonates even more loudly.
The vase is a centerpiece in domestic ritual and is reached for when flowers arrive wishing you recovery from illness, remembering a birthday, an anniversary or a passing. Sometimes the floral gesture is more loaded, perhaps a expression of guilt from a misbehaving partner. In film the vase is a frequent scene stealer. When the camera pauses for a second on a particularly elegant, expensive-looking vase, you know you will see it again, its fate is sealed and it will later become part of a drama that ends dramatically, an explosion of shards as it meets its demise.
A vase’s role in our lives is therefore densely layered from beauty to guilt, from rarity to ubiquity. In this exhibition, you will experience the full range of its expressions. Every vase here has a backstory, perhaps footnoting historical icons like Josiah Wedgwood’s Portland Vase, the Mona Lisa of vases and the first ceramic edition to source from a historical Roman glass form. Some vases front for human violence or a lover’s embrace, encapsulate life and death for refugees, or echo the passage of wind and water in the New Mexico landscape. Others are canvasses for glaze painting of riveting richness. Some are simply designed to seek the sublime and change your soul with their aesthetic power.
––Garth Clark, 2018