Locks Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of ceramic works by the artist Jun Kaneko, alongside video excerpts of the artist’s opera design for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Stemming from his ongoing concerns regarding spatial relationships and installation, Kaneko has fluidly moved between his sculpture and theater practice. The late art critic Arthur C. Danto applauded Kaneko’s previous opera design (for Madama Butterfly) stating that, “The production unfolds like a shared dream.”
The exhibition highlights the imaginative color palettes along with the bold and organic patterns that have become a creative signature for Kaneko’s interdisciplinary aesthetic. Discussing his glazing process, the artist remarked that, “I start thinking about orchestration of the colors around the work as a whole… sort of like a symphony. Everything has to make an interesting harmony to become one, to be there as one statement.”
With this installation of Kaneko’s Dango (freestanding stele forms) and wall-mounted slab works, a new conversation can begin between the artist’s studio and his contributions to the opera stage. Within the varying forms of his Dangos, their figurative presence is transformed to the theatrical. The exhibition is presented on the occasion of the east coast debut of The Magic Flute at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. alongside an installation of monumental Dangos in the Hall of Nations.
Jun Kaneko (born in Nagoya, Japan) lives and works in Nebraska. The artist has shown extensively in the U.S. since 1964 and has had exhibits in Finland, Norway, Japan, South Korea and Canada. Kaneko’s work is in over fifty museum collections throughout the world including the Arabia Museum, Helsinki, Finland; Detroit Institute of Arts; Los Angeles County Art Museum; Museum of Art and Design, NY; The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Phoenix Art Museum; Rhode Island School of Design Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In 2013, Kaneko’s recent sculptural works were the focus of a large-scale installation in Millennium Park in Chicago.
Kaneko’s design for the opera Fidelio debuted at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia in 2008. The east coast debut of his design for the opera Madama Butterfly became the catalyst for a citywide celebration in Philadelphia with sculptural exhibitions at the Kimmel Center’s Commonwealth Plaza, City Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and at Locks Gallery.
Coinciding with the Locks Gallery exhibition is a sculptural installation in the Kennedy Center’s Hall of Nations from April 9th through May 19th, 2014. The Magic Flute— featuring Jun Kaneko’s set, projection, and costume design—will run at the Kennedy Center from May 3rd through the 18th, 2014.
Brunch reception: Saturday, May 17, 11 am - 1 pm.
Inaugurating our new space at 1639 Market Street, Nathan Lynch will present a series of ceramic work which, like the gallery itself, recalls the past while grappling with an unsure future.
Motivated at first as homage to his late teacher Ken Price, Nathan Lynch’s abstract ceramic and wood sculptures make physical the difference between what we want and what we get. The work consists of abstract “blobjects” that appear to slump, sag, burst, drip, and ooze off of their platforms. Like a 4-day old helium balloon that is neither all the way up nor completely down, the forms hover in the layered emotions between elation, confusion, and disaster, suggesting the potential futility in even our best efforts. As Nathan describes; “In all levels of our life, we are in constant pursuit of the best solutions, from personal fitness and desktop applications to the national political debate. By remodeling this idealism, my work questions our value systems, revealing ironic, contradictory, and embarrassing culture narratives.”
Nathan Lynch was raised in Pasco, WA, an agricultural community in the shadow of Hanford Nuclear Power Plant. This environmental contradiction gave Lynch an acute sense of location and deep appreciation for irony. In the five formative years after graduation Lynch worked as the prop master for a local community theatre, the effects of which are still being realized in his current body of work. His concerns for political conflict and environmental upheaval are filtered through notions of absurdity, hand fabrication, and the dramatic devices of storytelling.
As a sculptor and performance artist, Lynch has made collaboration and experimentation major components of his practice. Recent projects include a residency at the Exploratorium, habitat restoration design for Ashy Storm Petrels on the Channel Islands, and a reinterpretation of David Ireland’s Dumballs for Southern Exposure’s 39th anniversary show, The Long Conversation. He is currently included in YBCA’s Bay Area Now 7 in San Francisco. At the University of Southern California Lynch studied with Ken Price, and later earned an MFA at Mills College with Ron Nagle. Lynch is an Assistant Professor and Chair of the Ceramics Program at California College of the Arts.
Emma Woffenden continues to explore the figure and the fragmented body in her latest sculpture series, ‘Falling Hard’.
Using a variety of mixed materials including glass, jesmonite, polystyrene, clay and metal, Woffenden creates a discourse around the interconnectivity of the body as a physical and psychological site and the impact of what the body – whole or fragmentary – expresses. The influences of social structures and the dynamics of power relations on the individual imbue her sculpture with a palpable sense of internal conflict.
Interpretation of contradictions and opposites is a pervasive theme in this new series of work; how internal emotional experience is expressed through theexternal action of the figure, the aesthetics of symmetry and asymmetry, the erotic and fetishistic power of religious sculpture, culminating in the unsettling yet exquisite appearance of her sculptures. The dualities Woffenden confronts in the ‘Baby Hammer’ hybrid object - corporeal and material, playful and brutal, fragile and resilient - hint at violence both real and symbolic.
Woffenden’s uncanny forms trespass upon the viewer’s imagination, casting an oblique light on the human condition.
Emma Woffenden (b. 1962) studied at West Surrey College of Art & Design (1981-1984) and the Royal College of Art (1991-1993). She employs a full range of complex glass and mixed media techniques to make works that explore the power of myth and archetypes, and the human condition.
Widely recognised as one of Britain’s leading glass artists, her work is included in a number of international public collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Wellcome Trust and the Crafts Council, London; Ernsting Glass Museum; Broadfield House Glass Museum, West Midlands. Her award winning designs for Transglass can be found in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She was appointed North Lands Creative Glass Artistic Director in October 2013. She lives and works in London and France.
Cross MacKenzie Gallery is pleased to present “SCORES” an exhibition of new ceramic sculpture and photographs by three artists whose work is based on repeating dozens or “scores” of elements to create something greater than the sum of their individual parts. Each artist’s work is full of repetitions, multiples, and variations of a seemingly simple form, built up to a greater whole, creating order out of disorder. Together, the pieces are in conversation with one another.
Michael Fujita’s ceramic hand rolled tubes are laid row upon row until a handsome vessel takes form. Glazed in blues and greens, the macaroni-like bowls evoke various visual textures, drawing upon our tactile sensibilities. This is a labor of love, patience, and detail, and it therefore comes as no surprise that the artist experienced carpal tunnel syndrome while building these works. In his previous show at our gallery, Fujita’s repeated element was individually glazed spheres the size of gumballs, each work was multi-colored and looked almost machine-made. His new work, however, differs in its monochromatic palette, and the ragged edges serve to emphasize the handmade aspect of the vessels. Stacked one by one, each tube is completely unique, and the overall effect is of an entity growing organically of its own accord.
Linda Lopez’ ceramic sculptures are also labor intensive. Like Fujita, she becomes entranced in her repetitions and creates rather comical furry shapes that are reminiscent of sea anemones. Her clay teardrops elegantly melt down along the surface and are placed layer upon layer until the entire form is covered as densely as a head of hair. Lately she has extended tendrils from the core opening up her monoliths into the surrounding space, growing outward.
John Cole’s new series of photographs called the “Full Bleed Series” at first glance seem like Washington Color School paintings, Gene Davis-like, made of multiple stripes of color. The fact that these are actually extreme close-up views of the edges of stacked magazines is a delight. By refocusing one’s eyes to take in the tiny scale of the magazine page colored edges, it simultaneously gives us a way of looking at the ceramics. His observations give us a full perspective by both zooming in and zooming out of focus. Each image is made of scores of pages, not only filling the frame of the photograph, but also continuing past the edge of the frame, implying an endlessly repeating pile of magazines.
"I fell in love with both the material and the vessel as a magical form; but it was a long time before I realised how I wanted to use it… I was seduced by the alchemy of change where you take a material…and it is transmogrified into something else."
Born in Staffordshire in 1934, Henderson became interested in painting and sculpture while working for a timber company in Cardiff and started attending evening classes at the local art school. In 1964 Henderson began a foundation course at Goldsmiths College in London where he first encountered clay. Later he would study ceramics under, among others, Hans Coper and Lucie Rie, at the Camberwell School of Art. But he always made time to draw and paint. He graduated in 1968 and continued his studies at Edinburgh College of Art before returning to London.
Hendereson very soon left the wheel behind and moved to the freedom of hand-building. Throughout his career he explored clay as a medium in its own right, and said of his work that:
"It explores the significance of what is broken, torn or cut, the ability of single or multiple forms to speak of either compression or expansion, flatness or fullness. It is a kind of drawing in three dimensions. I start with fragments - familiar, found, improvised - and then build up to complex structures that invite the observer to complete the circuit, so to speak, by considering such matters as memory, invention and metaphor."
In parallel with ceramics his passion for painting continued throughout his career, with watercolours, gouaches and collages becoming increasingly inseparable from his ceramics.
Ancient cultures, geological forms and landscapes were persistent influences during his career - Avebury, Eden Valley in Cumbria, the Rollright Stones in north Oxfordshire, Orkney, and Manorbier in Pembrokeshire where he had a home for the last year of his life.
Dates: August 11-25, 2014
Location: Mark Rothko Art Center, Daugavpils, Latvia
International Ceramic Art Symposium “LANDescape” 2014 is a joint initiative of Daugavpils Clay Art Center and Daugavpils Rothko Art Center which emerged from both partner organizations’ activities and cooperation aimed at promoting contemporary art, including contemporary ceramic processes in Latvia.
In the framework of planned ceramic symposium “LANDescape”, drawing inspiration both from Latvian nature and cultural space, as well as personal world, the participants are invited to create unique ceramic art works with their chosen materials and techniques, although there is a conjunctive theme, that indicates „spurting”, „escaping” „getting away”, etc.
The “LANDescape” symposium is being organized for the second time, and this year’s symposium is assigned with an additional title - Ceramic Laboratory. This year our aim is to create a kind of laboratory, where artists experiment and share their experience with each other in different ceramic firing technologies. While choosing the symposium participants, priority will be given to artists who, alongside the creative work will offer a firing master class and/or public lecture dedicated to the ceramics or ceramic technologies, which will subsequently be published in the catalogue of the symposium.
Symposium Organizers: Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Center in collaboration with association „Daugavpils Clay Art Center” Symposium aims:
1. To create unique contemporary ceramic objects for Latvian art and cultural space, to create a platform for artists to exchange experiences and generate creative idea, as well as to promote contemporary ceramic processes in the society;
2. To promote high quality contemporary art availability to public, raise public interest in culture, preservation of cultural heritage, to promote the creation of new artworks and their collections.
Symposium participants: 15 professional ceramists participate in the Symposium. Selection of the participants will be held taking into consideration the materials sent (Application, CV and visual information that are sent, taking into consideration the regulations below).
Symposium organizers’ liabilities:
1. Artists’ accommodation costs in Daugavpils (hotel and meals);
2. Working studios;
3. Working materials: clay (1000 ºC), chamotte clay (1000-1100 ºC), glaze.
4. Opportunity to use wood-firing kiln, electric kiln, as well as a chance to explore different types of individual firing;
5. Publicity (information in mass media, publishing of symposium catalogue);
6. Recreation possibilities: tour around the city and region, visiting educational arts establishments in Daugavpils;
7. Opportunity to present a creative work;
8. Symposium opening exhibition (opening on August 12, 2014);
9. Symposium final exhibition (opening on August 23, 2014).
1. Travel costs to Daugavpils and return home;
2. Other materials and instruments necessary for work;
3. Workshop and/or lecture presentation in frame of the symposium;
4. To donate one art work from symposium opening exhibition to Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Center (art works should be brought to the symposium opening exhibition);
5. To donate one art work, which will be created during the symposium, and which will be chosen by specially organized jury, to Daugavpils Clay Art Centre;
6. During first 5 days after receiving the invitation, an artist needs to confirm his/her participation (until July 10, 2014).
For further information, download the regulations (.pdf).
Click here to apply online.
Edmund de Waal: Atmosphere presents a new installation by the renowned ceramic artist and author.
De Waal, who grew up in Canterbury and is best known for his large installations of porcelain vessels and the international bestselling book Hare with the Amber Eyes, showcases a major new commission for Turner Contemporary’s Sunley Gallery. This is the third commission produced for the Sunley Gallery following those by Maria Nepomuceno in 2012 and Daniel Buren in 2011.
For this ambitious project the artist has created an installation in response to the space, light and architecture of the Sunley Gallery with its double height windows and spectacular views over the North Sea. Atmosphere (2014) comprises of a series of 9 large, suspended vitrines that are in conversation with the mutable light from the sea.
Suspended at different heights, the lines of the 20-40 vessels within each of the vitrines offer the viewer an array of horizons as they move through the space both on the gallery’s ground floor and from the overlooking balcony. In Atmosphere De Waal brings the changing weather into Turner Contemporary and echoes the ways in which artists as diverse as Gerhard Richter, Hiroshi Sugimoto and JMW Turner have thought about clouds and horizons.
This commission will be accompanied by two other works by the artist. Juxtaposed alongside Atmosphere is Bauspiel, a group of vessels residing on a floor based plinth in a configuration which reflects those in the nearby suspended vitrines. Turner Contemporary’s ground floor corridor is transformed by a new wall-based text installation, which sees De Waal convert the corridor walls into a life-size notebook, drawing on an array of sources from Turner’s letters to the poems of Baudelaire.
Edmund de Waal states: “When thinking about the changing landscape of clouds, I remember Constable’s beautiful letter about lying on his back and doing ‘a great deal of skying’. There is no more extraordinary place to look at the sky than the Sunley Gallery at Turner Contemporary. Atmosphere is my attempt to make a response to this threshold between a building and the air outside. Suspended in the space are nine vitrines holding 200 small celadon and grey porcelain vessels. I hope they will provoke some skying of their own.”
The exhibition coincides with a new monograph, Edmund de Waal published by Phaidon Press and featuring contributions from AS Byatt, Peter Carey, and Colm Toíbín amongst others. Edmund de Waal, which will be released on 5 May 2014, will be the first and only complete survey of the artist’s career to date, weaving together both his literary and ceramic practices.
Edmund de Waal was born in 1964. He studied English at Cambridge University and ceramics in both England and Japan. De Waal is best known for his large scale installations and much of his recent work comes out of a dialogue between minimalism, architecture and music, and is informed by his passion for literature.
Featuring work by: Edina Andrási, Artúr van Balen, Fiona Byrne Sutton, Melanie Davies, Sinéad Dunn, Morgane Deffense, Tilly Gifford, Nicola Henderson, Kevin Morris, Emma Pratt, Ester Svensson.
Curated by Kevin Morris and Fergus Stewart.
Clay, in a state of perpetual flux, formed formed by the earth and then in the hands of the artist, will be transformed again in the eyes of visitors to this exhibition at An Talla Solais. Led by two artists, Fergus Stewart a well-established potter in the highlands and Kevin Morris a highly acclaimed new graduate from Aberdeenshire, State of Flux features a wide range of handmade and unique pieces of ceramic art from eleven of Scotland’s finest graduates.
Artúr van Balen’s installation of porcelain chickens reinvents the polystyrene wrapped, headless mounds of poultry meat bought in supermarkets into precious and valuable objects, these ceramic sculptures were cast in Berlin where porcelain was once more expensive than gold.
‘A Journey’ by Ester Svensson creates an imaginative world using porcelain, wood and string. Strange creatures and morphed forms which are delicately glazed create a three-dimensional fairy tale, open to interpretation.
These pieces contrast well with the aesthetic of Fiona Byrne-Sutton’s press moulded vessels, which are physical expressions of geological processes. Her vigorous handling of clay is a balance of risk and control. Each of her vessels are unique, formed with black stoneware and embedded with clays she digs up near the principal rivers of Scotland. Nicola Henderson’s open formed vessels are also rich in geological reference. Her vessels are influenced by a type of metamorphic rock known as gneiss. Deep beneath the earth’s crust these rock are formed under huge temperatures and pressure causing separate layers to form which compress and distort, giving the impression of waves and movement. Henderson has developed this layering effect in an attempt to impart a subtle energy and flow. She says ‘I wanted to reflect the fact that though we think of rock as something static, unmalleable and permanent, it is in a state of flux, having a life cycle of its own, changing and recycling itself over millions of years’.
Alongside this exhibition runs a series of educational activities using clay, including artist-led workshops in slip casting, mold making, throwing, and constructing and firing in an outdoor kiln. These activities are designed to introduce participants to the different ways of working with this inspiring material through hands-on experience. These workshops will be taught by artists involved in the exhibition, providing a very rare opportunity for visitors to interact with real specialists and explore new art forms, literally getting their hands dirty!
The project State of Flux has grown out of the fact that opportunities to learn how to work with clay have dwindled a great deal over recent years. In 2012 Scotland’s last specialist degree course in Ceramics closed and it is no longer possible to study this subject as a full degree. An Talla Solais has acquired a brand new kiln in the light of this lack and this exhibition is just the beginning.
Thanks to Highland Stoneware and Breedon Aggregates who sponsored this exhibition.
Opening reception: Wednesday, May 7, 6–8 pm.
Anna Maria Maiolino is one of the most significant artists working in Brazil today. In a career spanning five decades and a diversity of disciplines and mediums, ranging from drawing, sculpture, and artist books to video and performance, she expresses through her art a bottomless concern with creative and destructive processes and, above all, the never-ending search for identity. Maiolino’s multidisciplinary practice has consistently explored the viscerality of embodied experience – often obliquely through fragmentation and abstraction – and engaged the human body’s processes as analogs for both the making of art and the making of modernity. As an immigrant coming of age in politically unstable Brazil, Maiolino has perfected a dialogue between opposite yet complementary categories in a practice that dissolves dichotomies of inner and outer, self and other. Hers is an art in search of a new language for the liminal realm of daily human existence.
Beginning 7 May 2014, Hauser & Wirth will present Anna Maria Maiolino. Between Senses, the gallery’s debut exhibition devoted to the artist. On view will be a selection of drawings, works on canvas, sculptures, photographs, and videos, as well the sound installation ‘Two Beats’ (2012), which features the artist’s poem ‘Eu so Eu (I am I)’ that was presented at dOCUMENTA 13.
Born in wartime Italy in 1942, Anna Maria Maiolino immigrated with her family to South America in 1954, living first in Venezuela and moving to Rio de Janeiro in 1960. ‘I found myself being an immigrant again, without speaking Portuguese’, the artist recalls. ‘What kept me going was my obstinate search for a language, my obsession to become an artist. All my energy was spent trying to become an individual. The existential and art formed one anguished body. My life was dominated by anguish and doubts, although I also wanted to participate in that moment of great political, social and artistic effervescence that was pushing artists to make alliances with the previous generations… We wanted to develop an autonomous national art, far removed from external patterns and models. We dreamt of a free and autonomous Latin America, with its own economic resources, and art was no different in this respect’.
Maiolino’s early experiments in the 1960s connected her to important movements in Brazilian art history, shadowed by the turmoil and governance of military repression: Neo-Concrete, New Figuration, New Objectivity. Maiolino took part in the radical reconfiguring of the art object – and thus the art institution and the artist – during this period. Along with Lygia Pape, Lygia Clark, and Hélio Oiticica, Maiolino participated in the 1967 exhibition, ‘New Brazilian Objectivity,’ which symbolized a cultural shift in previous constructivist traditions and established a new vision for the production of art in Brazil. After living in New York from 1968 to 1971, she returned to Brazil and devoted herself to drawing as a means of self-expression. Working to further define her identity as both an individual and an artist, she initiated a new series of works on paper that gave emphasis to the gesture, the action, and the process of making. Since the 1990s, Maiolino’s drawings – examples of which are included in the exhibition at Hauser & Wirth – have engaged similar methodologies in her continual exploration of other materials and media, from sculpture to video and installation.
Opening reception: Friday, May 2, 6–9 pm.
Ventana 244 is pleased to present new work by Annabeth Rosen, who will be showing a group of pieces developed over the last few years - lumpen forms with rich, densely packed and cracked molten surfaces. The shapes and surfaces seem to have emerged from the natural world and are described in her words as “…reduced in scale into concentrated simple forms… Heaps or hives or nests, sometimes with a human interference, formed by an intensive, focused energy. Against the weight and the impervious nature of fired ceramics, they seem to be in flux, slowly heaving and settling. Unsure if the works are found or formed… they infer yielding and resistance, thoughtfulness and recklessness…”
In the catalogue, Nancy Princenthal writes about Rosen’s work and includes this quote from Lucretius: “No rest, we may be sure, is given to atoms in the void abyss but rather, as unceasing different movements impel them, some, colliding, leap great intervals apart, while others recoil only a short distance from the impact… “
Rosen holds the Robert Arneson Endowed Chair in Ceramic Sculpture at The University of California Davis and is represented by Gallery Paule Anglim and Beam Contemporary Art. Her work can be found in the collections of The Boston Museum of Fine Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Oakland Museum of California, and The Denver Art Museum, and in many private collections.
A catalogue of Rosen’s work from 1989 to the present includes an essay by Nancy Princenthal was published for the exhibit with support from Beam Contemporary and The University of California Davis. The exhibition is curated by Josie Browne and organized by Dan McCarthy.
Landscape as the scene of everyday life. Sculptures as concrete drawings in space. Huge, robust ceramic dishes are set against more fragile, sinuous accumulations of abstract form in the exhibition of Marit Tingleff and Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl at Copenhagen Ceramics.
X–Scapes is the title of the joint exhibition by Norwegian ceramicist Marit Tingleff and Danish artist Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl. The title refers to ’scape’ as in landscape, while also pointing to numerous other possible scapes - physical and mental scenarios– anything from seascape and cityscape to mindscape; from the concrete to the abstract.
This x-scape represents the pivotal point of the meeting in clay between the two artists, where, in spite of the obvious differences in their artistic expression, the ambience of their work overlaps and visual resonance appears.
Marit Tingleff is internationally renowned as one of Norway’s greatest contemporary ceramic artists.Throughout her career she has consistently worked with, and against, the deep-rooted cultural layers of ceramic tradition.
Her particular strength lies in her ability to express the monumental character inherent in everyday phenomena. She manages to elucidate the metaphorical qualities of even the most ordinary functional objects, precisely by insisting so powerfully on their familiar and beloved forms. These are often presented in a monumental format - very large ceramic dishes or platters are her particular subject.
In the work she will be showing at Copenhagen Ceramics, she treats the landscape as a painterly theme with reference to early faience tableware.
Blue landscapes were favoured as subject matter and are still found on plates, cups and dishes in many homes. Tingleff uses the landcape of her own daily life as a starting point for an interpretation of these ceramic landscapes.
In a very different manner, a sense of being within landscape is equally the theme for Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl, in an abstract vein. In his ceramic sculpture the underlying agenda is to emphasize simple existence in space. Characteristically, he insists that even the most casual, banal gesture in space can be made important through a precise formal elaboration. Here is the crossover with Marit Tingleffs work: both have a vigilant eye for the monumental within the seemingly insignificant.
In his new works, entitled Spatial Drawings, he aims to establish the conditions for creating an intuitive, spatial form. He sets up his own obstacles to avoid consciously planning the figures. Out of endless small bits of clay tubes he builds parts that are then assembled into larger structures, which move around in space - dancing, groping their way, rising and falling. Like sculptural equivalents of semi-consciously scribbled doodles, they just exist – perhaps they emerged out of a void of thought – a distracted sense? They could have looked completely different. A pure sculptural movement. A captured account of the here and now.
Alison Jacques is proud to present its fourth solo exhibition of the late American artist Hannah Wilke (1940 – 1993). For this show, the focus is on Wilke’s sculpture from her early terracotta works of the ‘60s through to the more richly coloured installations of the ‘80s. The show also encompasses the theme of her body as sculpture seen in performative photographs as well as drawings from the ‘60s and ‘70s which either refer to her sculptures or demonstrate a visceral physicality that feels completely in dialogue with her sculptural practice.
The gallery has worked in partnership with The Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles, who have enabled us to assemble a succinct survey of iconic and lesser-known works which shed light on the many aspects of Wilke’s sculptural vocabulary. One of her earliest and most important sculptures That Fills Earth, (1965) is an earthy terracotta cube opening into organic forms. By pairing this explicit symbol of Modernism: the cube, with quasi-Metaphysical essentialism, Wilke demonstrates an idea of the “Modern Woman” – deconstructing a complicated living being into an ostensibly simplistic material form.
The show continues with a survey of sculptures that have been widely identified by scholars but rarely seen in public – from a trio of bronze sculptures, Athens (1979) to examples of her Generation Process Series grid groups from the mid-1980s. In each of the latter, Wilke placed hand-painted ceramic sculptures in geometric arrangements across painted boards, employing colour, pattern and her signature folded-gesture forms to both acknowledge and subvert her male contemporaries’ obsession with the mathematics of grid systems.
The main focus of the show is Wilke’s choice of materials and what they represent. In the exhibition catalogue to accompany Gestures, the most comprehensive survey of Wilke sculpture to date (Neuberger Museum, New York, 2008), the curator Tracy Fitzpatrick states:
“Wilke’s practice is rooted in her devotion to malleability and her interest in vulnerability. Throughout her career she created art from unusual materials, plastic and fragile in composition, and then placed these objects in compromising situations – hinged with pins or glued to walls and boards, placed freely on the floor, always seemingly on the verge of disaster, always questioning: Will it fall? Will it crack? This vulnerability, so much a part of Wilke’s work, is also carefully constructed strategy, perilous but orchestrated by the artist. The combination of these seemingly opposing forces creates a unique tension throughout her artistic production.”
An area of Wilke’s work, which is shown here in depth, are the kneaded erasers series from the 1970s, in which Wilke used simple everyday grey colour erasers and adapted this material into an entire series of work. Wilke placed her kneaded erasers, moulded into little gestural folded forms, onto various surfaces including boards on plinths but also everyday utensils such as Fork and Spoon (1974) and vintage postcards including Sea Wall (1975), and The Beach, The Pines, Cotuits, Mass (1977). Other materials including Wilke’s signature chewing gum are present in the show, from photographs which make up the iconic SOS series to her lesser known large-scale photographic work called California Series where Wilke photographed her gum sculptures outdoors attached to foliage and flowers.
Earlier this year, The Guardian newspaper described Hannah Wilke as “one of the most subversive women artists in history”. Throughout this exhibition, in whatever medium her sculptural forms reside, we are constantly reminded that Wilke saw no contradiction between creating pioneering, confrontational works that helped redefine the extent of feminist activism, whilst creating aesthetically pleasing forms. Wilke was an unapologetic aesthete, stating in an interview with Lil Picard in 1973: “The concept of the disagreeable object had offended me, and I decided to make ‘agreeable objects’. I don’t feel happy on any level with disagreeable forms – I love beautiful things”.