Ceramics in the Expanded Field is on view at MASS MoCA, North Adams
October 16, 2021 – April 2023
Ceramics in the Expanded Field brings together a group of eight innovative artists who are reshaping the way we think about clay. A medium once segregated from mainstream contemporary art, ceramic has been enthusiastically—even feverishly—embraced over the past decade. This exhibition provides a small snapshot of the current state of the field, bringing together artists from different generations as well as from different backgrounds, some having been formally trained in traditional ceramic methods and others who have come to the medium from other disciplines. All use clay as one material and one language among many, integrating the once-siloed category of ceramic work with photography, video, painting, sculpture, and performance.
While clay has been used by artists and builders for millennia, ceramics has been undervalued due to its link to the domestic sphere, functional and decorative arts, women’s labor as well as Indigenous traditions and those of many marginalized and non-Western cultures. All the work in the exhibition challenges these entrenched cultural and artistic hierarchies. Indeed, each of the artists engages with other crafts and art forms that lie outside “fine art” definitions, including building trades, furniture and automotive design, metal work, nail art, basket-weaving, quilting, and more. This exhibition showcases the dialogues between the artists’ work in clay and the other modes of making within each artist’s practice that inform and feed off it.
Participating artists: Nicole Cherubini, Armando Guadalupe Cortés, Francesca Dimattio, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Kahlil Robert Irving, Anina Major, Rose B. Simpson, Linda Sormin
These diverse artists also share an impulse to push the scale of ceramics—with MASS MoCA’s expansive galleries offering an opportunity to exhibit large sculpture and ambitious installation based work. Yet, at the core of the works lay the vessel and the figure, forms long associated with the medium. They are reminders of the intimate, somatic relationships we have with clay in our everyday lives—from the bricks in our buildings to the dishes on our table—even the broken ones on the floor.
Shards and fragments have a role in nearly all of the works, recalling the archaeological records that ceramics provides of cultures past. Each artist invokes both the fragility and preciousness inherent in the medium, by underscoring or challenging it, all the while reflecting the longevity of clay. At the same time, their employment of these fragments suggests the possibility of reconstructing something new from the pieces, from the past, from the multiplicities they represent—whether in an artwork or the culture at large.
All these artists emphasize how clay is deeply, quietly embedded in our surroundings and in our cultures. They draw out complex sociopolitical and cultural histories, from colonialism and patriarchal systems to capitalism and globalization, all of which are reflected in the material and the objects produced with it. Yet they also express an almost ecstatic joy and beauty in the face of it all—perhaps a form of resistance. Many of the artists look to both family and cultural heritage as inspiration and antidote, preserving stories and methods of making as they simultaneously introduce new ways of creating that give form to contemporary issues of identity and being—and offer alternatives for both.
Exhibition curated by Susan Cross, Senior Curator
1040 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA
Full photo captions:
- Anina Major, All Us Come Across Water, 2021 (detail view), Wood, shells, ceramic shards, neon, video, and glazed stoneware, Courtesy of the artist
- Francesca DiMattio, Teddy Bear Caryatid, 2021, Glaze and gold luster on porcelain, steel, plexiglass, Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York
- Nicole Cherubini, Stools, 2021, Earthenware, glaze, mason stains, mdf, steel, pc-11, magic sculpt, silicon, Courtesy of the artist and September Gallery
- Linda Sormin, Stream, 2020-21, Glazed ceramic, metal, clay, video monitors and video with audio, found objects, and charcoal and watercolor on paper, Courtesy of the artist and Patricia Sweetow Gallery, San Francisco
- Jessica Jackson Hutchins, The Way That You Live, 2015, Acrylic on printed canvas, glazed ceramic, folding chair, sweaters, Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen
- Nicole Cherubini, F-Print 3 (with Fountain), 2019, Terra-cotta, earthenware, glaze, grog, pc-11, pine, ronan paint, with digital archival print on matte paper with custom frame, Courtesy of the artist and Marisa Newman Projects
- Armando Guadalupe Cortés, Castillos, 2021, Site-specific installation, Courtesy of the artist