Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Exhibition Review: Flow


As many of you already know, NCECA will be in Milwaukee in about three weeks! Flow: The 2014 NCECA Ceramic Arts Invitational recently opened at the Milwaukee Art Museum in the Baumgartner Galleria. Wanting to avoid some of the, soon to be, large NCECA crowds, I went to check it out last weekend.


According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, flow means: to issue or move in a stream, to proceed smoothly and readily, to hang loose and billowing, to derive from a source, to deform under stress without cracking or rupturing. The artists participating in this exhibition have contributed visual definitions of the word flow that are seductive, gripping, engaging.

Beth Cavener Stitcher's "Tangled Up in You" is extraordinary.
Hanging from the center of the gallery hall, the sculpture is of a rabbit, who is about to be bitten, being intertwined with and held by a snake. The snake's beautiful skin seems to be almost tattooed with images of birds, fish , flowers, roosters, tigers, and even a praying mantis. Early on, I felt sorry for the rabbit, who appeared powerless and incapable of freeing himself. My sympathy then turned to acceptance as I realized I didn't want the snake to stop or to let the rabbit go because the captured moment was so beautiful. 


Beth Cavener Stitcher
Tangled Up in You
Stoneware, Ink, Paint, Rope
2014

Beth Cavener Stitcher
Tangled Up in You
Stoneware, Ink, Paint, Rope
2014


Del Harrow's multimedia piece, "Air_Breath" took me by surprise. As I approached it and saw a cabinet of vases, I expected to be viewing just another set of beautiful pottery. Within a matter of seconds I realized the the whole art piece was so much more than a set of functional objects on display. Next to the cabinet hung a large, engineer like drawing of a vase morphing its shape. Next to the drawing was a computer screen that showed an animated draft of the vase changing its form. And I heard it breathe. With the inhale, the Greek laynos like form started to grow, swell, and expand until it became a form similar to a classic Greek skyphos. The rhythmic quality of the form expanding and contracting while it was breathing in and out was quite calming and soothing, and felt safe and comfortable. So, I stayed with the piece for a while. After watching the form expand and contract for some time, I became aware of its preset dimensions, noted by the red line in the video. The vessel took many shapes within these dimensions, but did not go beyond its prescribed limitations. I ended up feeling a little sad for the breathing vase. What would happen if it took a sharp, deep inhale? Could it even do that without collapsing?


Del Harrow
Air_Breath
Slip Cast Porcelain, Birch Plywood, Paint, Graphite on Paper, Computer Screen and Video
2013

Image by EG Schempf, courtesy of Del Harrow


Having been a student of Jeanne Quinn's, I unconsciously approached her piece with a kind of anticipation. "True and Reasoned and Impure and Inexplicable" is made up of layers of individual images that together, create a three dimensional black and white drawing on the wall. An initial layer of the piece is made up of white, rectangular forms painted on the wall. Layered on top of and around some of the rectangles are white, geometric structures protruding off of the wall. Small, black objects which are reminiscent of growing cells, calligraphy, and the baroque decorative arts, are attached to parts of these structures as well as the wall itself. Though they hang from their supporting brackets, these organic object seem to be climbing and growing off of their supporting frames.

Some very interesting aspects of the show occurred when I observed people witnessing the artworks. I was not the only one engrossed in Quinn's piece. The man in the image below spent a lot of time with the piece, and eventually summoned his companion to talk with him about it. Every time he started to walk away, to continue through the gallery, he looked back and return to Quinn's work.


Jeanne Quinn
True and Reasoned and Impure and Inexplicable
Porcelain, Steel, Wire, Vinyl, Paint
2014

Jeanne Quinn
True and Reasoned and Impure and Inexplicable
Porcelain, Steel, Wire, Vinyl, Paint
2014


I'm warning you here. This next comment stems from my pride in my fiancé, Xi Zhang, and the Plus Gallery that represents him in Denver, CO. I was totally surprised when I saw the wall piece "Swarm", by Tsehai Johnson, who is also represented by Plus! I was so excited to see work by another Plus Gallery artist in the show, I went up to the stranger next to me and, with a grin, boasted, "My boyfriend's represented by the same gallery that represents this artist!". He responded by looking at me with a bit of surprise, confusion and indifference. Oh well. "Swarm" looks great, and I'm glad to have had this unexpected surprise.


Tsehai Johnson
Swarm Porcelain -110 unique components of variable dimensions
2012/13
Image by Wes Magyar, courtesy of Plus Gallery


And, as always, Chris Gustin's vessels are sexy, Tsubusa Kato's objects make me drool, and Lauren Mabry's cylinders steal my attention.Though I've only highlighted a few of the artworks, the show is full of impressive work by very talented artists. If you would like to see a show of contemporary ceramic art ranging from functional vessels to time based, and multimedia work, I highly suggest going to see Flow.



NCECA 48th Annual Conference: Material World

March 19-22, 2014

Wisconsin Center
400 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI  53203



 

Flow: The 2014 NCECA Ceramic Arts Invitational
February 22-March 23, 2014
Milwaukee Art Museum
Baumgartner Galleria

4 comments:

  1. I want to hang up rabbit befriending snake ( I understand that is not it's real name and I understand that befriending is not what is happening but it's my interpretation and the snake and the rabbit love each other and that's that) in my nonexistent house. It's simply lovely.

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  2. The art therapist in me wants to tell you that your interpretation of "rabbit befriending snake" is a reflection of how you see the dynamics of your own interpersonal relationships...but that's just silly! Biting or befriending, I would also love it in my house.

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  3. Del Harrow's piece is actually titled Pottery Breathing.

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  4. Del Harrow's piece is actually titled Pottery Breathing.

    ReplyDelete