Courtesy of the artist and Bentley Gallery.
Johan Tahon: Albarelli for all sores / Valerie Traan Gallery, Antwerp
January 23 - March 8, 2014
In his early twenties Johan Tahon dug up in the center of Ghent a majolica milk jug. It proved to be an important discovery: it was made by the Antwerp ceramist of Italian descent Guido Andries. Andries introduced majolica in the Netherlands and in 1520 put up a kiln in the Kammenstraat, not far from where gallery Valerie Traan is now located. This accidental discovery lead to Tahon’s collection of pre-Renaissance pottery and to a growing fascination with the archetypal uses of pottery.
A quarter century later Johan Tahon is the best known Flemish sculptor with his famous white sculptures. In Galerie Valerie Traan he shows for the first time his versions of the albarello, or pharmacist’s pot, capriciously covered with white glace.
These ointment jars with their healing powers and their ancient utilitarian shape mean a lot to Tahon. He doesn’t consider these hand-molded pots to be ready-made objects, but sees them as modern variants on ancient forms that have survived over time.
With his famous white sculptures Johan Tahon became the most famous Flemish sculptor. In Galerie Valerie Traan he shows for the first time his versions of the albarello, or pharmacist’s pot, capriciously covered with white glaze. These ointment jars with their healing powers and their ancient utilitarian are of great importance to Tahon. He doesn’t consider these hand-molded pots to be ready-made objects, but sees them as modern variants on ancient forms that have survived over time.
"It gives a great freedom, a certain lightness, to make utilitarian objects," explains Johan Tahon. "There is not that philosophical burden that weighs on you when you make art. The utilitarian, the making of utensils, is a discipline in itself. For me, it refers to rituals, to primal expressions of human civilization. And yet I have never before done anything with pots."
Jun Kaneko: Black & White / Bentley Gallery, Phoenix, Arizona
January 9 - February 28, 2014
Many Arizonans are familiar with Jun Kaneko’s large-scale ceramic dango sculptures (Japanese for dumpling) at Sky Harbor Airport, and his ceramic tile wall in front of Phoenix Art Museum. Bentley Gallery will be exhibiting his monumental glazed dangos and heads covered in geometric shapes and pure color. The sculptures are made with large amounts of clay, slowly built by hand using the slab technique. The glazing on Kaneko’s new works are reminiscent of his classic dangos, punctuated by graphic polka dots, spirals, stripes, and zigzags in pure black and white. These rhythmic designs are analogous with the Japanese Shinto concept of the Ma, which loosely translates into “attachment through space.”
Born in Nagoya, Japan in 1942, Kaneko came to the U.S. in 1963 and studied at the Chouinard Institute of Art. His innovative work is in more than 70 international museum collections including Arabia Museum, Helsinki, Finland; Detroit Institute of Arts; Houston Museum of Fine Arts; Los Angeles County Art Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Art and Design, NY; The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Phoenix Art Museum and Smithsonian American Art Museum. He holds honorary doctorates from the University of Nebraska, the Massachusetts College of Art & Design and the Royal College of Art in London.
This past summer, a large scale outdoor exhibition of Kaneko’s Tanuki sculpture (a symbol of fertility and prosperity) was installed at Millennium Park in Chicago. In 2012 his costumes, sets and lighting designs were featured in the San Francisco Opera’s production of The Magic Flute. He has also created costumes, sets, and video backdrops for Madame Butterfly, which began touring in 2006 and is still in production today. The artist lives in Omaha, Nebraska.
Best Kept Secret: The Scripps College Ceramic Collection / American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, California
Best Kept Secret: The Scripps College Ceramic Collection / American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, California
January 11 - March 30, 2014
The American Museum of Ceramic Art is honored to present Best Kept Secret: The Scripps College Ceramic Collection, an exhibition organized by The Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College. Curated by Kirk Delman, Collections Manager and Registrar, the exhibition will feature work from the Scripps College Ceramic Collection. The show will provide viewers insights into the contributions of individual donors and an opportunity to assess the RCWG’s achievements as a collecting institution for more than six decades.
During the mid-1950s the ceramics department at Otis Art Institute (then Los Angeles County Art Institute) was a place of artistic vitality and innovative energy. At Otis, Peter Voulkos led a “revolution in clay” by questioning the tradition that ceramic forms must be utilitarian and by creating instead nonfunctional, sculptural works that gave the medium a new freedom of expression. Voulkos and other notable artists maintained the momentum of this philosophy in Northern California at U.C. Berkeley.
The Scripps Collection is also remarkable in that much of it came to the college through one donor, Fred Marer, who was a teacher of modest means. Fred Marer was a mathematics professor at Los Angeles City College, and never had substantial resources, but amassed his collection slowly through actual contact with the artists themselves. Because his budget was limited, he most often bought works directly from the artists. Fred began collecting in the early 1940s, first acquiring a piece by one of the leading ceramists in Southern California, Laura Andreson. This purchase piqued his interest in clay and encouraged him to investigate further.
It was due to the influence of renowned ceramist Paul Soldner, who came to Scripps after graduating from Otis and built the Scripps ceramic program into a major center of study. Soldner’s leadership of the Scripps program along with the Scripps Ceramic Annual (celebrated its 70th ceramic annual exhibition in January, 2014), were the prime reasons Marer decided to make this generous gift to the college.
This exhibition of more than one hundred and eighty objects will include works from the Otis group as well as highlighting many others, including, Laura Andreson, Robert Arneson, Hans Coper, Phil Cornelius, Shoji Hamada, Jun Kaneko, John Mason, and Jim Melchert.
Dark Light: The Micaceous Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse / Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
Dark Light: The Micaceous Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse / Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Houston
February 7 – May 11, 2014
Opening Reception: Friday, February 7, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
5:30 - Artist Talk by Adrian Esparza
6:00 - Artist Talk by Christine Nofchissey McHorse
The opening will also feature Spectra by Adrian Esparza in the Front Gallery. Open studios by current resident artists to follow talks.
In Dark Light: The Micaceous Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) presents works by one of the most innovative contemporary forces in Native American pottery. Working from traditional materials and techniques, Christine Nofchissey McHorse’s vessel-based art blends the boundaries of pottery and sculpture, erasing the line between function and form. As the Navajo artist’s first traveling exhibition, the show exhibits the unadorned sophistication of the sultry curves, black satiny surfaces, and modern forms of her Dark Light series, created from 1997 to present. An amalgam of Puebloan, Navajo, and contemporary influences, each sculpture possesses a cultural splendor that is as fertile as the Northern New Mexico riverbeds where McHorse harvests her clay.
Through the unadulterated beauty of micaceous clay and with Puebloan construction techniques learned from her Taos mother-in-law, McHorse transforms her sketches into voluminous shapes that swell upwards like a natural spring. Dismissing the rudimentary forms that define Native American ethnic identity in craft, she returns to primordial shapes, akin to the modern aesthetic of Henri Moore. Experimenting with shape, mass, volume, and line, she creates organic vessels in the vein of her ancestors, who recognized the spiritual power of water, air, and earth.
To complement her natural forms, McHorse gives each piece its own unique skin by pushing the boundaries of a raw material. Traditionally used for cookware and valued for its structural integrity, micaceous clay permits McHorse to build thin-walled structures that can withstand high temperatures, yielding a black satiny finish. The darkness of the fired clay provides a dramatic contrast to the tiny bits of reflective mica, glistening as light dances across each piece. Using light gradation as her palette, McHorse controls the presence of light by creating differently textured surfaces that either catch or reflect the light. When combined with the elegance of each sculpture’s form, the element of light in McHorse’s works renders a captivating visual experience.
Born in Morenci, AZ, in 1948, Christine Nofchissey McHorse is a first generation, full-blooded Navajo ceramic artist. After marrying Joel McHorse, a Taos Pueblo Indian, she learned to make pots through his grandmother, Lena Archuleta, who taught her to work with micaceous clay, a rare but naturally occurring clay high in mica content that can be found in the Taos area. McHorse has since become one of the most admired and successful Native potters, working with traditional techniques but making the kind of reductive, sculptural pots that one would have expected Brancusi to make, were he alive today.
From 1963 – 1968, McHorse studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM, where her studio is now located. She has received numerous awards from the SWAIA Indian Market, Santa Fe, and the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, Gallup, as well as the Museum of Northern Arizona. Her works are in the collections of the Denver Museum of Natural History, the Museum of New Mexico, the National Museum of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution, the Navajo Nation Museum, and the Rockwell Museum of Western Art. McHorse also has the unique distinction of winning Best in Show for both pottery and sculpture at the annual Santa Fe Indian Market.
Dark Light: The Micaceous Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse is organized by The Ceramic Arts Foundation, New York, NY, and curated by Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio.
Şirin Koçak / Kuğulu Art Gallery, Ankara, Turkey
February 10-28, 2014
"Şirin Koçak sticks in our mind with her works in which senses, experiences, broken hearts, and memories of today and the past are blended with a deep and shocking taste. Traces from the past finds a new integrity and expression in her both subjective and universal works made of ceramic clay.
First of all, Koçak prefers to use all the advantages of ceramic clay to the utmost in her works. Natural structural properties of clay and the identity codes forming the virtual identity of clay come to life again in her works. As in “Line” series, consciously unremoved traces of the production techniques can become the main purpose of the study. We can see the story of clay out of these traces, and we are left alone with the reflections of these traces in our inner world. The linear structure on the surface establishes a direct relationship between a function like “drinking” and “touch-tactile” features. Pure and tactile effects of hand shaping present the visual expressions of mankind’s existence as a part of nature in “Light” series, which are full of Neolithic allusions. These works being the integral parts of an archaic expression question the association of the substance with light. They emphasize the significance of the footprint of the matter in the universe, and the space. Concave and convex structures gain new dimensions with different reflections of light and create an illusion effect in places. We see the traces of this inner space also in closed forms of “Circle” series. Although the forms stand out with their natural linear glazed textures on them, the inner space is full of the load of inner energy imprisoned in a body.
Ups and downs in life, happiness and disappointment are the witnesses of her subjective history in Şirin Koçak’s works.
"Days of one heart" project is a cinematographic-photographic expression of this witnessing. Koçak describes this work in her sensory language: “this work is so special to me! The work in the form of a single heart is presented with its photographs in new stories which take place in different venues, and in the hands of different people. This heart has been an object that has been with me anytime anywhere in this two-year period that I felt all alone. Without prior planning, I took photos of the object in different places and tried to reflect the object’s (my) mood. The journal of one and same object… sometimes it was cracked, and I repaired it, sometimes it was broken, and I fixed it; my fighting spirit that still continues to exist”. Although the photographed places are examples of a spontaneous selection, their coexistence with the ceramic heart takes us to different fictive worlds. Sometimes a door sill and sometimes a pond presents an opportunity to navigate our own dream world. That a vital organ such as heart is left such open and exposed refers to unprotectedness and finding life in any condition. The presence of heart disembodied reveals the contradictions that make our life meaningful.
Şirin Koçak pushes the boundaries of traditional and cliché expressions of ceramic. The photographic expressions and different materials that she uses in her works help ceramic to be regarded as a modern art medium.
One mustn’t think that she is an artist who is technique-dependent and focuses on technique since some techniques such as Naked Raku are in front in her works. Şirin Koçak is an artist who can use all the advantages of different techniques in different production processes consciously and skillfully. A dream explorer travelling around senses, experiences, and upsets…”
Words by Kemal Tizgöl
William J. O’Brien: The Lovers / Almine Rech Gallery, Paris
January 9 - February 15, 2014
Almine Rech Gallery is pleased to announce ‘The Lovers’, the first solo exhibition by William J. O’Brien in France.
Prior to a major survey exhibition of the young American artist at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, this exhibition brings together a series of ceramic sculptures made between 2008 and 2013, and a series of new works on paper. This exhibition reflects the diversity of mediums and themes found in O’Brien’s work for almost ten years.
William J. O’Brien is part of the return to ceramics in contemporary art, seen over the last ten years with artists such as Rosemarie Trockel, Thomas Schütte and subsequently taken on by a younger generation of artists. His ceramic sculptures reflect the extent of his vocabulary by developing complementary or opposite forms: they oscillate between matt and gloss, between anthropomorphic shapes with smudges and drips; as well as geometric abstraction reminiscent of Calder. The shaping hand always present, there is a primitive element that immediately stands out – whether referencing the grinning masks of the South Pacific or the plastic qualities found in the culture of native Americans. For O’Brien this is not an identity issue nor a tribute to a native history: the artist was born in Ohio, and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, so his use of primitive forms is more akin to Picasso, Paul Klee or the Surrealists; taking an oppositional stance relative to a certain automated sophistication of form found in many artists of his generation. O’Brien’s ceramic practice skillfully plays with this return to primary expressionism (it is curious to note that the artist was an instructor at a center for the mentally ill), a representation of the human sometimes flirting with the grotesque, but presented on pedestals made by the artist, an institutional device that is simultaneously perfect and ironic. This primitive and modernist dual heritage is also an important anchor in teaching at the Art Institute and on Chicago Art, which shapes the sensibilities of such artists as Nancy Spero or more recently Sterling Ruby. Indeed, one of the first group shows to introduce O’Brien was “Modern Primitivism” at the Shane Campbell Gallery in 2009. The Lovers affords us the possibility to understand the extent of his expression, both sensitive and informed.
Born in 1975 in Eastlake, Ohio, William J. O‘Brien lives and works in Chicago. Recent and important exhibitions include Wet ‘N Wild at Marianne Boesky Gallery (New York, 2013); The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (Overland Park, KS, 2012); Works on Paper at SHAHEEN Modern and Contemporary Art (Cleveland, Ohio, 2011); and The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago (Chicago, 2011). The artist‘s first major survey exhibition opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago in January 2014.
Words by Judith Souriau
Anders Ruhwald and Matt Ziemke at The Clay Studio, Philadelphia
February 7 - March 2, 2014
The Clay Studio will host a reception for Cranbrook Alumni on Saturday Feburary 8th at 2pm. Matt Ziemkie will give a Gallery Talk at 3 pm within his solo exhibition Adrift and Anders Ruhwald will give a gallery talk at 3.30 pm within his solo exhibition Almost Everything.
Anders Ruhwald: Almost Everything / Harrison Gallery
Danish-born artist Anders Ruhwald makes art that is “a meditation on utility, the history of ceramics and object-hood”. Almost Everything was created in 2009 and has been exhibited at galleries in five European countries before making its United States debut at The Clay Studio.
Ruhwald has lectured and taught at universities and colleges around Europe and North America since 2006 and has held an associate professorship at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Currently he is the Artist-in-Residence and Head of the Ceramics Department at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, USA.
Matt Ziemke: Adrift / Reed-Smith Gallery
Former Clay Studio Resident Artist Matt Ziemke draws his inspiration from the tense relationship between the landscape and those who live and build within it. His ceramic forms reflect his broad vision of material culture that leans harder on industry than domesticity. His installations are drawn from the vast reservoirs of familiar (but practically invisible) structures that dot the modern landscape.
Matt Ziemke received his MFA in 2011 from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. He has exhibited widely in the United States and is currently serving as a Visiting Artist in Ceramics and Adjunct Instructor at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany.
Lynda Benglis / Cheim & Read Gallery, New York
January 16 - February 15, 2014
Born in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1941, Lynda Benglis moved to New York City in the late 60s. Her early, ground-breaking work – landscape-like, sculptural installations of poured polyurethane foam and latex – confronted the then-current, male-dominated tropes of Minimalism with brightly-colored, biomorphic forms which embraced themes of ambiguity, femininity, nature and transformation. Their formal ambiguity resisted easy definition: Benglis has long critiqued the art world’s attempt at classifications and hierarchies, as well as societal boundaries of sexuality and gender. Simultaneously seductive and grotesque, Benglis’s work has always been the result of a fluid and organic working process, in which difficult-to-control materials help determine the final outcome. Her ceramic sculptures, though more intimate in scale, are also constructed with deference to the medium’s inherent characteristics. While the clay works accentuate issues she has addressed throughout her career – the blurring of distinctions between pliable and rigid, accidental and intentional, form and shapelessness – they also expand the scope of her artistic methods, engaging notions of craft, functionality, and primeval history.
Benglis had experimented with clay as a student in the early 1960s, but didn’t pursue it as a medium until the early 1990s. Her newest work, made in New Mexico, retain the earthy, elemental, primal nature of clay, and highlight the material’s unique susceptibility to the artist’s touch: clay easily preserves the physical impressions of the hands which mold it. Benglis does not use a potter’s wheel, but hand-builds with tubes and slabs of clay, pinching, stacking, squeezing, pulling and smoothing them into complex sculptural compositions. Sometimes wave-like and lyrical, sometimes squat and spherical, Benglis’s ceramics explore various manifestations, excavations and manipulations of form. She collapses the boundaries between interior and exterior space, using both hollowed out and compacted elements which collide and fuse together reinforcing the sexual undercurrents of her muscular, polymorphic shapes.
Benglis’s ceramics condense the full-bodied gesture of her earlier work into the more focused expressions of her hands. As with her other work, color becomes an equally important component. Benglis’s glazes – pinks and mauves, earthy greens, blacks, ochres, and blues – are oozed, dripped, brushed and poured on, coalescing in some areas and avoiding others, providing texture and variability to the already tactile, unglazed surface of the clay. Benglis’s painterly application of glaze re-contextualizes her forms, as if they were not sculptural, but paintings in three-dimensional, physical space. Again, ambiguity and transformation remain at the core of her practice. Benglis’s creative process is evident in her works’ final realization: one imagines its physical making and thus identifies with the intensity and focus of her artistic methodology.
Lynda Benglis resides in New York and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her work is in important public collections, and has been exhibited extensively. Benglis was the subject of a 2010-11 international retrospective which traveled to The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; The Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Le Consortium, Dijon; New Museum, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.