Shows to See: April/May 2013

Shows to See: April/May 2013

Shows to See: April/May 2013

April/May 2013 issue of American Craft magazine
Author Staff
William Morris Vases

William Morris vases, inspired by Alexis Rockman paintings, at the Boise Art Museum. Photo: Courtesy of the George R. Stroemple Collection

AR / Little Rock
Arkansas Arts Center
Ron Meyers: A Potter’s Menagerie
to May 5
The surfaces of Ron Meyers’ red earthenware pieces are enlivened with colored slip paintings of animals: rabbits, chickens, bats, and others. Meyers’ expressive and immediate style, love of the material, and embrace of the functional form have influenced potters throughout his career.

CA / Los Angeles
Craft and Folk Art Museum
Social Fabric
to May 5
Textiles have a long history as catalysts of social change, from British millworkers’ strikes during the Industrial Revolution to the antebellum American cotton industry to 21st-century concerns about sustainable fiber farming. “Social Fabric” honors that history, bringing together seven fiber artists who take on issues such as labor systems, consumerism, and global commerce. Viewers become participants in workshops, including one with performance artist Frau Fiber, on how to sew a shirtwaist blouse (in memory of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911), and another with Stephanie Syjuco, who invites attendees to make crocheted replicas of designer handbags.

IA / Des Moines
Des Moines Art Center
Transparencies: Contemporary Art and a History of Glass
to May 22
In art based on everyday objects such as mirrors and chandeliers, in works of stained or blown glass, and in video, sculpture, and installation, “Transparencies” shines a light on glass as both medium and subject matter. The exhibition is arranged as a series of mini-installations, each focused on the work of one contemporary artist: Jim Dingilian, Matt Eskuche, Monir Farmanfarmaian, Laura Fritz, Rachel Lee Hovnanian, Ran Hwang, Luke Jerram, Karen LaMonte, Judith Schaechter, and Fred Wilson. Some of the artists work mainly in glass, others only rarely, but all have created works that reflect on its historical use in art and life.

ID / Boise
Boise Art Museum
Art of Nature
to Jun. 2
Alexis Rockman’s large-scale, diorama-like paintings express his view of humans’ impact on the natural world, and they teem with life; one depicts 214 species, real and imaginary. Glass artist William Morris saw Rockman’s work, which inspired his own, turning his focus to the human experience of nature. Three paintings by Rockman are on view, alongside 38 glass vessels by Morris with imagery of pine needles, leaves, trees, squirrels, and other plants and animals.

MA / Brockton
Fuller Craft Museum
Dark Garden: An Installation by Linda Huey
to Apr. 28
At the heart of Linda Huey’s work in sculpture and pottery is an exploration of the natural environment, its sustainability, and its fragility. At the Fuller, Huey fills a gallery with huge plant forms that could be mysterious night blooms from a climate zone no one has ever visited. These stalks, seed pods, leaves, and flowers are constructed of clay, recycled metal, and debris, and their world includes elements such as broken antennae and macabre gnomes. With her choice of form, scale, and materials, Huey provokes questions about the balance between growth and decay, and the tension between nature and culture.

NC / Asheville
Asheville Art Museum
A Sense of Balance: The Sculpture of Stoney Lamar
Apr. 12 – Sep. 1
Woodturner Stoney Lamar receives a career retrospective in his home state. A teacher, lecturer, ACC trustee, and craft advocate, he continues his productive career of more than 25 years. With his multi­axial lathe technique, Lamar achieves expressive asymmetrical forms, both architectural and figural; he frequently follows the shape and color of the wood to arrive at the final piece, sometimes leaving rough edges, holes, and the mark of the lathe on the wood. The show is scheduled to travel to five other museums following its Asheville run.

NY / New York
The Forbes Galleries
Out of This World! Jewelry in the Space Age
to Sep. 7
Jewelrymakers can find inspiration anywhere – even, it turns out, in a galaxy far, far away. “Out of This World!” melds science with art, with pieces that reflect humans’ fascination with outer space through their form, material, or history. The celestial rock star Halley’s Comet and the mid-20th-century space race inspired some of the jewelry on view. Some items are crafted from materials such as dichroic glass, polymer, and titanium, which were used in space exploration; others are made from stones that came from beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Also among the exhibition’s 150-some items are pieces that have journeyed to space and back.

TN / Memphis
Metal Museum
When Weather Moves Metal: Whirligigs and Weather Vanes
to Jun. 9
Weather vanes, those sometimes fanciful building-toppers that show wind direction, are a familiar sight and subject matter for artists. But what exactly is a whirligig? Pretty much anything that whirls or has a whirling element: a garden ornament, a toy, a sculpture. “When Weather Moves Metal” includes specimens of all manner of whirly, twirly things. The contemporary and historical objects spill out of the galleries and onto the grounds, where they show their moves whenever the breeze  strikes them. Artists include Yvonne Bobo, Vollis Simpson, James Wallace, L. Brent Kington, James P. Leonard, Weigl Iron Works, and William R. Faust.

WA / Bellevue
Bellevue Arts Museum
Zoom: Italian Design and the Photography of Aldo and Marirosa Ballo
to Jun. 16
As Italian design seized the attention of the world in the mid-20th century, Milanese photographers Aldo and Marirosa Ballo were on the spot, capturing its icons in precise, direct images. Their carefully staged product photos – the couple’s clients included Olivetti, Artemide, and Pirelli, among many others – distilled the essence of the objects and the moment, and became part of the conversation themselves. BAM is the only U.S. venue for this show, which originated at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany.

TX / Houston
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
NCECA Biennial
to May 5
Held in odd-numbered years, the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Biennial is a premier showcase of what’s current in clay. This year’s exhibition, at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, features 39 works by 35 artists, selected by jurors Cristina Córdova, Richard Notkin, and Namita Gupta Wiggers. We asked Córdova and Notkin about the show. Here, online, we share their extended answers:

The biennial is held in conjunction with NCECA’s annual conference (March 20 – 23). How does it complement it?
Córdova: The biennial walks the talk. In other words, it anchors, along with other concurrent exhibitions, all the technical and critical discourses – which develop the theory of contemporary ceramics – in the direct physical experience of a ceramic object, composition, or performance.

Notkin: As a survey intended to showcase some of the best and/or innovative work currently emerging from studios around the world, the biennial is a smorgasbord. And, as is the nature of a potluck meal, the works are not necessarily balanced in quality. Other exhibitions and activities are more focused on topical or geographical themes. But it all adds up to a diverse, and, hopefully, pleasing, stew.

Namita, your co-juror, has a curatorial background, but you’re both full-time ceramists. Does that influence the way you look at submissions?
Notkin: The jurying process – whether from a curator’s or an artist’s perspective – is quite weighted by subjective criteria. In short, a different hypothetical jury would result in a remarkably different exhibition. As jurors, I think we are all initially seduced by the pure visual impact of a work – or equally turned off by a lack of aesthetic energy; thus, the winnowing process begins. As the jurying progresses to the final choices, the jurors focus on defining the strength of each piece through an in-depth evaluation of various interrelated aesthetic elements. Among these are the intentions of the artist, the content of the work, and the most effective and advantageous choices of a myriad of technical processes, materials, scale, form/imagery, composition/juxtaposition, so on. These criteria are in constant flux and evolution, and there are no ironclad or definitive postulates in art.

Some differences in subjective values between curators and artists are obvious: I think that the curator's perspective might include considering the entire group of work as a cohesive, perhaps thematically succinct, exhibition. As an artist, I simply try to choose works that impress me profoundly, with no thought to a unifying theme. In a sense, I see the biennial as a chance to exhibit the best work currently being made. Although the selection process is artificially controlled by the artists who actually enter the competition and submit works for consideration, that is a given limitation.

Córdova: Unlike a professional curator, who might be broadly aware of trends and emerging talents within the medium, my discernment was rooted in a more personal reaction to the work that left the strongest imprint through technique, form, and content. As a maker, I also might have been more sensitive to the nuances involved in the execution of certain pieces, adding another dimension to my critical perspective through involuntary self-reference.

What do you hope people will take away from this show?
Notkin: In addition to viewing the widely varied aesthetics and approaches to contemporary ceramic art, I want viewers to get a sense of how subjective the jurying process is. I hope nobody is pleased with every work chosen. I'm not endorsing every piece in the show, nor do I think my fellow jurors are totally pleased. Jurying as a group of three involves tradeoffs and a degree of compromise. I want viewers to feel free to hate some of the work, or to be pissed off that their own may not have been included. If people are in love with the entire show, then perhaps the jurors – myself included – have failed.

Córdova: I hope people leave with the same thrill I had in discovering the interesting, diverse elements that are broadening the creative possibilities in clay. I hope the exhibition is a testament to the constant exploration within a material, in ways that uphold traditions while continuing to push boundaries.