It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another installment of Spotted, your guide to the strange and wonderful ephemera cluttering up the contemporary ceramics world.
The above image is a rendering of Italian-American artist Maurizio Cattelan’s sculpture America. The toilet, a nod to Duchamp (but aren’t most toilet sculptures?), is made out of 18-karat gold. It was to be installed in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed bathroom at the Guggenheim. The problem with the sculpture isn’t that it borrows its satirical political edge from an open mic poetry slam (it’s gold but you put poops in it! Take that, America!), it’s that the foundry in charge of producing the work has never made anything like it before. It’s been delayed. The artist tells the New York Times the project is being bankrolled with private funds, meaning the artist could be colluding with the very people he’s satirizing. How dangerous.
About a week ago we wrote about Ai Weiwei’s Overrated exhibition in San Francisco. You may remember that one of the pieces on view was a rendering of Ai’s famous Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn triptych in LEGO building blocks. Interesting story behind that one: apparently the company denied the artist’s request for a bulk order of blocks on the grounds that his work was “too political.” Now why on earth would the company care? It couldn’t be because of their rapidly-expanding business in China, could it? Of course not! How dare you even think such cynical things about a friendly company like LEGO?!
Ai, who is gifted with a supernatural ability to make nebbish authoritarian busybodies look like fools, did what he does best and started mocking them. He posted about the conflict on Instagram and people responded by sending him their own building blocks. Eventually a shamed LEGO backpedaled and tried to reframe the debate by saying it wasn’t their stance that Ai was too political, no, it was a sterile “internal mistake.” (It could happen to anyone! Please leave us alone.)
The neutral thing for LEGO to do in this situation was to do what companies are supposed to do: sell their product. By refusing Ai they’re not being apolitical. They’re, in fact, siding with the people who kept the artist caged in his house while braindead cops prowled around just outside his studio. That’s not a neutral stance. Quite the opposite. Oh well, another notch for Ai’s bedpost.
If you’re a fan of weird, Canadian sculptor Shary Boyle is worth a look. Her works combine sometimes-political satire with a dash of Cronenberg body horror, creating toothy black humor that comes across so well in ornamental figures. It’s like a safari into the dankest depths of the Meissen porcelain factory, to the dungeons where they locked away all of the porcelain freaks.
Beautiful Decay has a writeup of her work:
Her work explores the complexity of power dynamics, addressing a vast array of social structures including gender politics, colonialism, and exoticism. Her work exists in a state of quiet conflict; it is fragile, precious, and plays on notions of traditionalist elegant aesthetics, while simultaneously delivering sharp intellectual puns that are clever, sophisticated, and some how, even through the visual distortion, perfectly intellectually exact.
Worth a look, if only for the sculpture of the penis posed like a stripper in high heels, complete with a Delft blue tramp stamp on what I assume is its lower back. I realize “tramp stamp” isn’t the PC term for that kind of tattoo, but I think it makes sense within the context of the piece.
Kristine Tillge Lund (b. 1973, Denmark) studied at the Glass and Ceramic School in Bornholm, Denmark. Her first solo show was at the Puls Gallery. She then studied at the Royal College of Art. The works we have to show you today take on the look of large pollen grains, looking both natural and alien at the same time. She had an exhibition of these sculptures at Puls in 2007 and had this to say about them:
My work for this exhibition is the result of an abstract study in the dynamics within a controlled organic form. The objects reside between biomorphic fantasy and formal organic exploration. From a distance you get the impression that each object’s complexity is casually organised, yet when you come closer you realise the meticulous system each object depends on. Through the careful interaction and mutual influence we experience an ongoing organic evolution. The natural looking rough surfaces and colours give you a feeling of a forest, again enhancing the organic expression.
I’ll level with you: the reason I love writing Spotted is because it’s often where all the strangest, dirtiest stuff on CFile ends up. Case in point: Pansy Ass Ceramics, a Toronto studio run by Andy Walker and Kris Aaron. Those two boys cruise for antique ceramic plates and take them home where they do very bad things to them. All of their plates are unique and painted by hand. It feels like the end game of people subverting found ceramic objects. It’s very bright and aggressive. There’s humor here, but unlike other people who work with found objects, it doesn’t feel as safe. Lines are being crossed and I could see people on either side of the political spectrum having difficulty with the work.
There’s a political angle, which the duo discussed with Huffington Post a while back:
PM: That’s my favorite thing about your work. I love how it plays with two of the stereotypes people associate with gay men: effeminacy and hyper-sexualization. You literally lay them on top of each other.
PAC: A lot of gay men are re-appropriating words like “Fag” and “Pansy.” Our work is resonating with them in a really positive way.
It’s really resonating with straight people, too, for some reason. Gays in the US can get married and people love RuPaul’s Drag Race: all of these things are coming together and we’re so much more widely accepted now. Putting these subversive ideas into the mainstream isn’t nearly as shocking as it once was.
Straight people message us and say, “Oh my God, I want to buy my husband this plate. He thinks it’s hilarious.” Ten years ago, I think we would have been shunned and booted off the Internet. Straight people are seeing the humor in things that were once very taboo.
We’ll have more of these plates for you to see as soon as I sign off. Have a great weekend, everyone.
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily.
Do you love or loathe these spots of contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.