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."
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.
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
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.
Yeesookyung: The Meaning of Time / Locks Gallery, Philadelphia
February 7 - March 15, 2014
Artist reception: Friday, February 28, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.
Locks Gallery is pleased to present The Meaning of Time, the first solo exhibition in the United States by the Korean artist Yeesookyung, on view February 7 through March 15, 2014. This exhibition is intended to be a contemporary perspective in dialogue with the nationally touring exhibition of Korean Joseon Dynasty artifacts that will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on March 2, 2014. An illustrated catalog of the works will accompany the exhibition with an essay by writer Robert C Morgan.
In this exhibition, Yee revisits traditional Korean arts in work featuring porcelain and gold sculptures, silk scroll paintings, and a video dance performance. This work reflects both a wisdom from decades of conceptual art practice and a rigorous formal training in her elegant craftsmanship. Identifying herself as a “local artist,” Yee’s work reflects poetically on specific Korean cultural traditions and histories. But in the context of globalization, the work poignantly reflects how traditions taken from the past are re-imagined and recontextualized.
Known internationally for her Translated Vase series, Yee collects porcelain shards from Korean ceramists who make reproductions of Joseon Dynasty white porcelain and Goryeo Dynasty celadon masterworks. By making intuitive voluptuous forms out of their “trash”, Yee employs the traditional method of repairing ceramics with gold. Meanwhile the works play with language as gold and crack (both “geum”) are homonyms in Korean.
Also on view are recent silk scroll paintings from the series Flame Variation. Echoing the graphic iconographic style of the wall paintings of the Gorguryeo Tombs with the spatial organization of symmetrical Buddhist paintings, Yee combines traditional religious imagery with that of fairy tales, cartoons, myths, and allegories. From a distance the scrolls appear to be traditional artifacts, but upon further inspection they are captivating in their non-linear narratives and distinctly contemporary graphic content.
Yeesookyung’s video dance work, Twin Dance, is an extended meditation on Kyo Bang Choom, a traditional Korean dance performed by women of the Joseon Dynasty. The work explores a relationship with symmetry akin to the silk scroll paintings. The video completes this constellation of works that represent her recent conceptual investigations into Korean cultural traditions with distinctly contemporary approaches.
Yeesookyung (b. 1963) is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Seoul, Korea. She recieved both her undergraudate degree and MFA in painting from the National University in Seoul. The artist has completed residencies at Villa Arson, Apex Art, and the Bronx Museum. Yee’s work has been shown internationally at the 6th Gwanju Biennale (2006), ARCO (2007), the 5th Liverpool Biennal (2008) the Vancouver Biennale (2009), the Buson Biennale (2010), and the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012). She has been included in notable recent exhibitions including “Women In-Between: Asian Women Artists 1984-2012” at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, the 2012 Korea Art Prize exhibition at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, Korean Eye 2012 at Saatchi Gallery in London, and The Collectors Show: WEight of History at the Singapore Art Museum in 2012. Her works can be found in the collections of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, IFEMA ARCO Collection in Madrid, Echigo-Tsumari City Collection Japan, Saatchi Collection in London, the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, among others.
James Tower / Erskine, Hall & Coe Gallery, London
February 5-28, 2014
Erskine, Hall & Coe is pleased to present an exhibition of the work of James Tower in February. This will be Tower’s first solo show in London since 1986.
James Tower is one of the most distinguished ceramic artists of the 20th century. His ceramics are unique for their visual effects which suggest that he responded to nature and his environment. He became an established artist in the 1950’s and exhibited alongside such artists as Barbara Hepworth and William Scott. A goal of Tower’s was to achieve a quality in his work that ‘is perhaps best defined as a sense of completion. A longing for a serene harmonious whole which contains dynamism and vitality, satisfying our intellectual and spiritual needs.’ —James Tower
Tower’s work was reminiscent of the world around him. He worked to develop an abstracted style of the natural environment:
There is a sense of water running between rocks, patterns on a butterfly’s wings, spots on a fish’s skin, clouds on a wintery day, stripes on a zebra’s back, ribs of a human chest and the multiple leaves of a compressed succulent in the myriad forms of James’s work. His genius was to synthesise and make of these inspirations in which he delighted things in themselves (excerpt from Anthony Gormley’s introduction in Timothy Wilcox’s book, ‘The Ceramic Art of James Tower’).
Born in Kent in 1919, Tower studied at the Royal Academy, and then at the Slade School of Art, where he discovered an interest in English slipware and became fascinated with ceramics. During the 1960’s and 70’s, he was Head of Pottery at the Bath Academy of Art in Corsham, and Head of Sculpture at Brighton Polytechnic.
Tower’s artwork is owned by many public collections throughout the UK and the United States, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and The Art Institute of Chicago.
The exhibition at Erskine, Hall & Coe will comprise of twenty-five vessels, plates and sculptures, and is fully illustrated on our website. The gallery has worked very closely with James Tower’s family and with Timothy Wilcox, author of the book ‘The Ceramic Art of James Tower,’ to put this exhibition together. Wilcox’s book will be available for purchase at the exhibition.
Untitled #11A90, 2011, Wood-fired native clay, 18x19x9 inches
Untitled #11A92, 2011, Wood-fired native clay, 12x21x8 inches
Untitled #11A91, 2011, Wood-fired native clay, 14x29x8 inches
Earthen Bodies: Ceramics as Sculptural Form / Slocumb Galleries, Johnson City, Tennessee
January 21 - February 14, 2014
The ETSU Department of Art & Design and Slocumb Galleries in partnershp with the Urban Redevelopment Alliance present “Earthen Bodies: Ceramics as Sculptural Form” from January 21 to February 14, at the Tipton Gallery. Some of the participating artists will discuss their work during the reception on February 7, First Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.. In addition, the ArtIfact gallery talk is scheduled on February 13, Thursday at 6 p.m. to discuss the exhibit as it explores the diverse sculptural forms created by artists working on figurative clay in the region.
Most often, ceramics is associated with vessels and utilitarian objects, and has provided an excellent array of functional forms overshadowing its aspect as equally remarkable medium for other sculptural configurations. This show is curated to celebrate the figurative and non-utilitarian form of ceramic as art form. Ceramics is one of the more popular and established craft media in Southern Appalachian region, and this malleable medium has evolved to various permutations and tactile experimentations. The exhibition “Earthen Bodies” features works that provide diverse perspectives and a range of styles and utilization of ceramics as medium for sculpture.
The invited artists from the Tri-states of Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia are Sally Brogden, Melisa Cadell, Carol Gentithes, Mindy Herrin, Kevin Kao, Richard Kortum, Val Lyle, AJ Masterson, and Ed Miller.
Curated by Karlota Contreras-Koterbay.
ETSU faculty Mindy Herrin and alumni Melisa Caddell both create meticulous and complex figurative sculptures, mostly investigating the female body fabricated with other media such as encaustics and metal works. Herrin describes her work as depicting dialogue as surfacing in the “guise of affliction or struggle.” Her anatomical heroines illustrate women’s physical struggle and mental perspectives in its aspiration to overcome the body’s limitation. In parallel, Cadell’s elongated, and at times emaciated or mutated figures are visualization of her thoughts on “confinement and transcendence of the human body”, often as efforts to provoke dialogue on issues such as mortality and the unexpected consequences of genetics and technology.
This common thread of employing the female body is also prevalent on the works of Val Lyle. Lyle’s ceramic torsos made from clay are gestural forms that are characterized as sensual, organic and emotive as the artist strives to relate to the viewers on a “primitive level”.
Last year’s Positive Negative national juried exhibit’s Best of Show awardee Kevin Kao’s work also explores the human form, yet his figures portray a very different crowd from the female sculptors in the exhibition. Most obvious are the androgynous or male subjects and its uncanny statement on race and identity. Kao’s “character-objects are surreal images that portray whimsy, pain and satisfaction,” at times reminiscent of ‘super flat’ aesthetics and anime generation. This younger generation of Kao, Ed Miller and AJ Masterson employ humor on their work, at times anthropomorphing animal figures. In this era of social networking, artists like Miller who considers his work as form of journalism as he “observe the world and report my findings through sculpture”, it is not surprising to find quirky LOL animals and complex ‘selfies’ in 3D.
Tim Rowan: Untitled #11A93, 2011, Wood-fired native clay, 16x25x15 inches
Tim Rowan Ceramics: Untitled #11A85 / Untitled #11A86, 2011, Wood-fired native clay, 14x26x6 / 13x22x9 inches
Tim Rowan: Untitled #1215, 2012, Wood-fired native clay, 8x9x8 inches
Tim Rowan: Untitled #121, 2012, Wood-fired native clay, 12x15x12 inches
Untitled #12246, 2012, Wood-fired native clay, 7x15x4 inches
Untitled #12247, 2012, Wood-fired native clay, 9x10x5 inches