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clay

Gail Goldsmith: Everyday Weapons / William Holman Gallery, New York

Gail Goldsmith Everyday Weapons at William Holman Gallery New York

Gail Goldsmith: Everyday Weapons / William Holman Gallery, New York
February 19 - March 22, 2014

William Holman Gallery is pleased to present Everyday Weapons by Gail Goldsmith and Times and Places by Richard Barnet, two concurrent solo exhibitions that are installed at the gallery through mid-March.

Featuring eight clay sculptures, Gail Goldsmith’s Everyday Weapons series reflects on death and mourning. Made in the aftermath of her husband’s suicide twenty-five years ago, the sculptures are cathartic, revealing how his death altered everyday objects in Goldsmith’s life. From a series of broken bottles to an ominous corkscrew lying next to a pair of women’s shoes, these quotidian objects reverberate with pain and anger, seeming ominous as thinly-veiled weapons. With the distance of time since their creation, Goldsmith has come to see these sculptures as theatrical; each work is an archetype, both personal and universal.

"After my husband’s suicide, I found myself immersed in the need to express complicated inarticulate feelings- anger and rage, pain, fear, revenge, and also grief. When I was finally able to return to my studio, I began a clay figure of a standing woman. It was almost finished when, walking along the street; a large kitchen knife appeared in my mind’s eye. Back in my studio, I made a clay knife. I unclasped the woman’s hands, put the knife in her hands, and reclasped her hands around the knife as she appears today in the exhibition. At that moment, I didn’t understand why she needed the knife.

That woman led me to the Everyday Weapons sculptures. Soon after, I made another, larger clay knife and placed it lying across a clay hammer. Because the two pieces had to be secured, I quickly rolled out a slab of clay. The knife lies across, corner to corner, occupying the space. Its upturned point holds down the claws of the hammer, which, immobilized, can’t strike without a hand to lift it. This clay slab made a significant place for the objects. I rolled out another piece of clay and looked around. The next piece I made was a lineup of bottles. A few years earlier my husband had bought several cases of Perrier water, in anticipation of an expected water shortage. From somewhere in my mind, I remembered a street story I’d been told in which someone who was being followed, broke the top off a bottle, sat down in a doorway holding the broken bottle and waited. I took out a bottle from the case and wrapped it in a thin piece of clay. When the clay became firm but not too hard to work with, I peeled it off, joined the edges and put it on the clay slab. I took out a second bottle, looked at it, broke off the top and repeated wrapping the glass with clay. Then I added a third and a fourth and lined up a group. Because I found the objects beautiful, and because breaking bottles for a purpose was extremely satisfying, I broke more bottles and made a second sculpture of only broken bottles. After making that sculpture, I found that objects in my home, literal and domestic, became ambiguous: a pair of shoes, a rolling pin, the keys to my house. One night in a dream, I saw a man’s work glove rising up out of the earth, which eventually inspired the work titled Apparition. I made these works almost twenty-five years ago, a very long time ago. Although I remember the violent emotions I felt when I made the pieces, I can also look at them objectively today. I see this work as dramatic. Each clay slab presents an individual piece of theater. The sculptures can be read in sequence as a narrative.

The first work, the knife over the hammer begins the unfolding drama, followed by the bottles. These are survivors, taking their stand. A man enters next – he is represented by an inert and empty pair of gloves, hands with the palms facing up. The gloves rest in front of a row of bottles, the sleeping pills with the potential for harm. This work is followed by a man’s glove, a woman’s pair of shoes, and a corkscrew. The corkscrew could be for romance, to open a bottle of wine, but could also be a weapon. This ambiguity is contained in all the objects. In this particular piece none of the objects touch each other. Each sits in its own space within the larger space that contains them, raising questions about the relationships between the objects. In the final two pieces some objects come together and touch. In the first, a man’s boot is blocked and held in place by the weight of a rolling pin. In the second of these two final pieces, a single bottle, the top broken off as in the earlier sculptures, sits sheltered inside an ordinary mug. The edges at the top of the bottle point up, as do the keys which rest beside it. In this smaller clay square, the objects are at peace.

In the Everyday Weapons series, objects and spaces are made of the same monochromatic color and texture, giving each piece unity and strength. The static objects belie the emotions which inspired them. These sculptures are transpersonal as well as personal; they exist as archetypes. The monochrome color and the dry texture of the clay remind me of the desert and objects buried, then excavated. Because clay is an ancient material, this work could have come from a remote past. Because these pieces originated in my experience, the work represents the archaeology of my past. Because clay has this quality of timelessness, the represented actions of violence and rage can be imagined now or in the future.”
– Gail Goldsmith, January 2014

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  • Tim Rowan Ceramics:

    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

  • Tim Rowan: Untitled #128, 2012, Wood-fired native clay, 9x28x7 inches

  • Alexis Rago: Chaos Contained / Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, UK

    Alexis Rago: Chaos Contained / Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, UK
    January 7 - March 1, 2014

    The National Centre for Craft & Design confirms that Alexis Rago: Chaos Contained will begin its life as a touring show in Farnham. Originally curated by Laura Mabbutt for the NCCD, the exhibition opens at the Crafts Study Centre on 7 January 2014 continuing until 1 March. Touring Manager, Liz Cooper says “During its 70 day run at NCCD, over 4,600 people of all ages viewed Chaos Contained, making it one of the most successful exhibitions we have held in our Roof Gallery. We hope to repeat that success in Farnham.”

    Alexis Rago: Chaos Contained ceramics exhibition

    Alexis Rago worked as a biologist and his artwork is inspired by the Cambrian explosion, when diverse life forms rapidly evolved. He hand crafts his sculptures, allowing them to take shape while he works, and incorporating the imperfections characteristic of work created by the human hand. For Chaos Contained, Rago created brand new, technically challenging, large scale ceramic works,with integrated media, such as digital sound and projected imagery. Avideo of Rago describing the work as he createdit explains his thoughts, creative processes and techniques.

    The exhibition has received critical acclaim, with the New Scientist describing it as “Beautiful Biology, pure fantasy, a collection of intricate, totem-like clay sculptures that look as if they are made from natural organisms”. Elements from the exhibition formed a key part of the Frequency Digital Festival, which took place in Lincoln in October 2013.

    Public praise for Chaos Contained, captured in the gallery comment book, includes “serene, elegant, fascinating and wonderful”, “Beautiful, life-affirming – a delight”, and “Superb! Biologist myself – love the forms”.  It has inspired art students to take up clay work and children to complete wonderment: “antastic, my little girl was mesmerised and spent time considering how they [the forms] stand up, she is only seven”.

    The National Centre for Craft & Design is a unique and ambitious gallery that seeks to exhibit the most innovative, challenging and accomplished artists practicing within the craft and design arena today. Under one roof, the NCCD has five galleries dedicated to the exhibition, celebration and promotion of national and international craft and design. The NCCD is committed to creating exhibitions that can be seen by as many people as possible. Through its touring programme, the NCCD works with some of the UK’s leading galleries and museums.

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  • Tim Rowan Ceramics: Untitled #11A85 / Untitled #11A86, 2011, Wood-fired native clay, 14x26x6 / 13x22x9 inches

  • Tim Rowan: Untitled #122, 2012, Wood-fired native clay, 8x16x6 inches

  • Tim Rowan: Untitled #121, 2012, Wood-fired native clay, 12x15x12 inches

  • 13 Ways of Looking at “Natural Great Piece” - Meditations on a performance in clay by Cybele Rowe and Lauren Ari / REVIEW

    REVIEW, November 2012:

    13 Ways of Looking at “Natural Great Piece”
    Meditations on a performance in clay by Cybele Rowe and Lauren Ari

    Review by Daniel Fleischmann for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

    1. “Natural Great Piece” is an intricate, intimate, communal performance in the medium of clay. Like a dance or a concert, it is more overtly bound to time than most sculptural artwork, and it ends dissolved into the past.

    2. Cybele Rowe and Lauren Ari make a large and detailed clay sculpture. It emerges from an improvisational score fed by their combined 60 years of art making experience. Passersby are invited to create self-portraits in clay to be incorporated into the artwork. Its surfaces become covered with these figures, which are painted with underglaze.

    At a certain point, the construction is complete. Its size is such that it can easily conceal a large adult from view. The words of Tibetan lama Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche are carved into the unfired clay:
    Rest in natural great peace this exhausted mind,
    Beaten helpless by karma and neurotic thoughts
    Like the relentless fury of the pounding waves
    In the infinite ocean of samsara.
    Rest in natural great peace.

    A brief performance marks the culmination of the process. Then the Natural Great Piece is dismantled.

    3. Rowe and Ari first manifested “Natural Great Piece” at the 2nd Ceramics Annual of America in San Francisco, October 5-9, 2011. They were joined by singer Bridget O’Keeffe and dancer Juliet Lin. In addition, roughly 250 fellow artists, ceramics aficionados, art students, and visitors contributed small figurative moments to the sculpture.

    Circumnavigating its concave exterior or squatting in its embrace, you could see a red dragon, a female figure growing from yellow coral, a gnome pouring a jug of water over a balcony, a bloody ghoul, a colony of barnacles, a waiter bringing a head on a tray, a cluster of pink faces on a blue man’s torso, and countless more visual poems and paragraphs.

    The chaotic and fascinating fresco captured the essence of the eternal cycle of birth, differentiation, suffering, death and rebirth—in short, samsara. Yet as varied as the details were, all came together in the single, curved wall. Reminiscent of both cave and womb, it described approximately three quarters of a circle and measured about 3m in circumference, 2.5m in height at its apex, and 900 kg in weight.



    4. There is no reason to believe that “Natural Great Piece” has a quintessential appearance. Rowe notes, for example, that the moisture in the air at Fort Mason, which sits on a pier above San Francisco Bay, forced her to build a stockier wall. One wing of the sculpture even threatened to collapse on Saturday, calling for quick reinforcement. In a drier clime, the taller shape could easily emerge given Rowe’s gift for stretching the proportions of clay.

    For another example, because the venue was a ceramic conference, many participants were artists themselves. Rowe and Ari conceive of this work having an expression in a space where most passersby would not have artistic training. It would yield something quite different and perhaps more compelling to Ari, who says, “The point is that art is for everyone. Everyone gets to express. For me, it’s very powerful to invite people to art making in a way that makes them say yes to the process.”

    5. “How do you fire it?” is the number one FAQ. The answer is simple, but few can hear it without questioning further.
    “So you’re not going to save it?”
    “Then what are you going to do with it?”
    “Are you going to take it apart and then fire it?”

    You have to have compassion toward these reactions because it’s clear that great effort has gone into building this mother cave. The structural ingenuity, the input of so many people, even the cost of the clay—surely it must be saved.

    But when a saxophonist stops blowing, or a monk rises from a meditation of pure surrender, or a trick pilot pivots a plane like a beached fish in midair and then recovers, nobody questions why the transcendent emergence has to end. Nobody asks the pilot, “How will you save that moment?” And even fired clay is only a pause in this fluid reality.
    (The second most common question is asked by people who have given Rowe and Ari their clay self-portrait: “Where is the piece I contributed?”)

    6. Last summer, Ari and Rowe got together at Rowe’s studio in the hills southeast of L.A. Together, they built two small structures to explore the way their languages combine. They also painted two large drop cloths in prismatic colors to serve as a foundation for the sculpture. Their daughters, Galatea and Mirabai, fast friends, played together while their mothers worked.

    The artists first met the previous year at the First Ceramics Annual, but even before that, Ari had seen Rowe’s work and recognized a kindred spirit. “When I saw [it], I thought to myself, ‘If I were to make something big, I’d want it to look like that.”

    Rowe had also been instantly attracted to Ari’s work, and had actually set one of Ari’s images as her computer’s desktop graphic before the two ever met.

    “So when we met, we quickly started talking about collaboration,” Ari relates. “We had similar energy and ideas.” Over the year, these ideas coalesced, leading them to Fort Mason on October 5, 2011, where they spread the canvases, poured a ring of sand for a base, and began to grow the artwork from the ground up.

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  • Ryan Blackwell: Untitled (Red Rectangle), details, 2012, Table Top, Clay, Oil, Acrylic, Curtain Wire, 41 x 28 x 2 in.


  • Ryan Blackwell: Yellow, Table, Curtain Wire and Trowel, 2012, Table Top, Clay, Curtain Wire, Trowel, Oil, Resin, Wood Glue, 72 x 40 x 15 in.


  • Ryan Blackwell: Untitled (White Shelf), 2012, Shelf, Clay, Oil, Acrylic, Resin, Wood Glue, Hardware, 43.25 x 10.25 x 2 in.

  • Ryan Blackwell: Self Portrait: Spring 2010, Animal Bones, Clay, Resin, Wood, 18 x 11 x 2 in.

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