Morten Løbner Espersen: Return to Form is on view at Jason Jacques Gallery, New York
January 5 – February 4, 2023
Jason Jacques Gallery is pleased to announce our fourth solo exhibition of work by the iconic Danish Ceramist, Morten Løbner Espersen, following his first solo museum exhibition outside of Denmark at the Kunstmuseum Den Haag, and coinciding with his tour de force one-man-show at the CLAY Keramikmuseum.
“Some of the oldest fragments of human civilization are made in clay,” says Espersen, whose oeuvre hones in on classical forms from around the globe and takes them to fantastic extremes using color and texture.
Color and texture themselves become subjects in his work, which he carries to their own extremes through a combination of masterful glaze chemistry, technical precision in his wheel-throwing and hand-building, and the application of multiple firings that ensure an abundance of exuberant detail in his works— in the artist’s own words, “it’s not until the third or fourth firing of more layers that something really starts to happen.”
Back to archetypal classical forms—in his early career, Espersen’s oeuvre was defined by his interest in the vessel at its plainest: a cylinder, to which he refers simply as a Vacui.
Espersen followed his decade-long focus on the Vacui with the development of the Horror Vacui, a series focused on archaic Greek vessels first encountered around in the Geometric Period, c. 900 BCE. The term denotes, in Latin, the fear of empty space and refers to the ancient vessel’s heavily decorated surfaces filled with dense registers of geometric motifs. In Espersen’s Horror Vacui, there too is a form hidden beneath the ornament: an urn that hints at being an amphora, lodged within embellishments that seem to have lifted from its surface and taken on a life of their own.
Yet Espersen’s taste extends beyond the Western classics, for he gives just as much focus to the moon jar, the traditional white porcelain vessel popular during Korea’s Joseon dynasty (1392–1910). As Aileen Kwun so aptly discusses in a November 2022 article for the New York Times, “These days, the [moon jar] is finding new practitioners and admirers beyond the Korean Peninsula.” Just as, throughout its history, the moon jar’s irregularities and imperfections gave it its charm, Espersen uses the vessel’s expansive surfaces as a canvas on which to explore irregularity and chance, framing flaws as indication that an object was made by a human being and not a machine.
“Ceramics is a lot like painting in the dark,” says curator and author Glenn Adamson, referring to the surprise that comes with opening a kiln—it’s a surprise that Espersen embraces. In all instances, Espersen maintains the respective vessel’s essential components and recognizability while transforming the traditional form into something distinctly contemporary. He is facilitating a return to form.
Jason Jacques Gallery
529 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
Photographs courtesy of Jason Jacques Gallery and Morten Løbner Espersen. Photographer: Grace Nkem