Jun Kaneko and the Multi-Discipline Approach

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For the final article of the Ceramic Art and Perception assignment for this semester, I’ve chosen an article by Nancy M. Servis featuring a moment in Jun Kaneko’s career in which he was exhibiting at the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Fransisco and had also designed set, costumes and props for a production of Mozart’s Magic Flute for the San Fransisco Opera that was to run concurrent with the show.

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The Gallery show features painting, drawing, sculpture and ceramics and points to one of the most remarkable things about Kaneko as an artist, his ability to pursue a wide range of media and still hold together a cohesive vision for his work and produce quality in each media.  It is this relentless searching and experimentation that equips him for the challenges of designing for the opera.

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The curatorial challenge of staging a show to compliment an opera would be a daunting task indeed if it were not for the consistency of aesthetic in Kaneko’s work.  All the various media are united through streaming color and pattern, while the art objects are further unified by surface treatment and mark making.  His work is also distinguished by his commitment to the space between works, which he calls ma.

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This multidimensional way of working is exciting to see.  the potential of the large Dango pieces grows exponentially when the forms are used to costume a character on a stage and the theater calls back to the gallery as those same large forms take on the presence of actors on a stage.  This ability to think in the round is the new requirement for artists.  Simply making objects is rarely enough, as our culture is too fragmented focus on one thing in one place.  Kaneko proves an artist can be everywhere and still deliver a solid, compelling body of work.

https://renabranstengallery.com/exhibitions/jun-kaneko

Judy Onofrio

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This piece titled “Flux” by Judy Onofrio is featured in a review of her work in Ceramics Art and Perception issue 92.  The work is composed of ceramic forms and found objects, primarily bone, that the artist collects and cleans for this purpose.  The assemblages are then unified by paint surfaces that accentuate the feeling that the sculptures are a living thing.

Bone are very particular objects.  They are not made, by hands nor geologic process.  They are grown, but unlike most living things, they survive death.  They are the structure of animals and carry a memory of them, yet taken as objects they evoke another kind of architecture.  They can evoke a sense of the undying principles of life, it is this I believe that is behind a cultural obsession with the human skull.

This work then, which combines found objects grown from natural process and artist rendered shapes made from earth and transformed by fire come together to give new meaning to both.  The delicate hue of the assemblages pulse with life and point to a notion that the cycles of life and death are part of the creating process, a part of every life.Judyonofrio2twist Judyonofrio1

Inventing the Modern World

inventing4Rozenburg Haagsche Plateelbakkerij, The Netherlands (The Hague), 1883-1914. Milk Jug, 1900. Glazed porcelain with enamel. 108 x 40.6 x 33.7 cm. Designmuseum, Danmark, Copenhagen, 793.

 

One of the best things about the Ceramics Art and Perception assignment this semester is catching up on events in the ceramic community that I missed.  One of these that I most enjoyed was the review if the show “Reinventing the Modern World” that was staged by the Nelson Atkins museum in Kansas City in 2012. The show has toured some and so there are other museums that have sites dedicated to the show, but here is the original:

http://www.nelson-atkins.org/art/exhibitions/WorldsFairs/

The intent of these shows when they were first conceived was to showcase national manufacturing and design in a cooperative environment that allowed the spread of ideas globally.  There was also a fair amount for showing off, so the bet artists and craftspeople of a country were invited to participate, making it some of the best of the best work that a period had to offer.  The show focus’ on a period in which some ceramic was beginning to be designed for exhibition rather than domestic use, so these works have a very contemporary art piece feel.

inventing2Miyagawa Kozan, Japanese, 1842-1916. Vase, ca. 1904. Glazed porcelain. 35.6 x 31.2 cm. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Acquired by Henry Walters, 1904, 49.1912 Walters.

Much like the worlds fairs themselves, the show featured many different arts and crafts objects, such as furniture, glass and metal, but there was also a range of styles and approaches to the ceramic work.  This vase seems influenced by Paul Gauguin’s experiments with ceramic.  Its form and surface have an incredibly contemporary feel.

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Pierre Adrien Dalpayrat, French, 1844-1910. Vase, La Mer, 1898-1900. Glazed stoneware. 40.6 x 36.8 x 40.6 cm. Saint Louis Museum of Art, Richard Brumbaugh Trust in memory of Richard Irving Brumbaugh and Grace Lischer Brumbaugh and funds given by Jason Jacques, 7:2010.

The focus of this show is largely a historical one, what was the world like at the time and how were these Worlds Fairs influential in the making of culture, but I see a deeper significance in restating historical shows.  Disparate objects become a single work of art through the process of good curation.  How interesting then to consider this historical work restaged in a contemporary setting. Bringing these works together again has the power influence a new generation of artists and thinkers in a way that photos in a book or a single example in a museum just can’t do. At the very least, it reminds us working in the field today of our roots and provides inspiration for new ideas.

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Algot Erikson, decorator, Swedish, 1868-1937. Rörstrand Porslins Fabriker, manufacturer, Sweden
(Stockholm), 1726-1964. Vase, 1904. Porcelain. 42.3 x 18.4 cm. Cincinnati Art Museum, Museum Purchase with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. William O. DeWitt, Jr.

Images for this post were taken from this site:

http://arttattler.com/designworldsfairsmodernworld.html

Ceramics as Theater and the Necessity of Video

Either by question or comment, people are often curious about the blending of ceramic and video that is at the heart of the Foxy-Wolff collaboration.  Partly, it is a simple matter of blending Gabe’s and my skill sets, this is just what would naturally come about from a collaboration of a  ceramist and a film maker, but after reading a wonderful essay in Ceramics Art and Perception (issue 92) titled “Is Ceramics a Genre in Theater”, I am compelled to think more deeply.

In the article, the author, Orly Nezer points to a definition of minimalist art that came out of the 1960’s.  Theorist Michael Fried identifies minimalist art as “neither paintings nor sculpture, but rather a situation that takes into account the actions of its manufacture, the activities that have preceded it and to great extent, the presence of the spectator”.  The author goes on to develop a thesis based on this quote that put the viewer in the center of a work of art for the context that is given through that act, and another from Eric Bentley on the nature of theater, “A impersonates to B while C is watching”  This quote establishes the necessity of time in the idea.  So we are left with an audience and a measured time of action.

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Orly then identifies several ceramic installations that meet this criteria.  My favorite is Titled “Signs and Wonders” by Edmund de Waal, it was installed in the Victoria and Albert Museum  in 2009.  For tis installation, de Waal honors the ceramic collection of the V&A through recreating them in porcelain from memory.  The works were then placed on a circular aluminum shelf suspended high above the gallery floor.  This placement distorts and blurs the work for the viewer.  Orly claims that this placement requires the imagination of the viewer to complete the work.

In each of the works discussed, the audience must participate, and that participation can only occur while in contact with the work.  From this keen observation, Orly goes on to include functional pots into this definition, because their use gives them context and meaning and their value is in a collection of gestures that goes into their making.  A pitcher is not really a pitcher until its poured.

So then how does this pertain to Foxy-Wolff and our toys and videos?  I think it’s an easy jump to view the handmade toys and houses as functional objects that are not really complete until they are played with.  It’s true that ceramic is an absurd material for toys but that is, in a way, the point. We act out these strange adult scenarios with toys too fragile for a child.  The play is closely regulated with firm rules so that the video has the look and feel that we need, but none of it has any meaning until they are watched.

It is true that the recording of the play removes the necessity of the ephemeral, but perhaps this is not the play of the script that is really being recorded.  I begin to wonder if the play that we are really interested in is the continuous dialog of the collaboration itself.  Sometimes light and funny and at times a battle with immovable opinions, but always compelling as we continually push for more and more from the work and each other.  Maybe that question; why ceramic and video? is at the heart of the entire project. Though for me at least, its one that I don’t really need to answer.

Janet Mansfield

I was attracted to the article in Ceramics Art and Perception on Janet Mansfield (issue 92) primarily because I admire her contribution to contemporary ceramics.  She has been so very dedicated to the spread and growing acceptance of ceramic art as a respected medium.  Her legacy as a writer and editor and publisher, including the launch of this very magazine in 1990, is one that will be felt for generations.

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This article had little to do with these achievements however, it was a conversation about her favorite pot.  It seems amazing to me that she could choose one, having made so many, but according to the article, she chose without hesitation.  In her discussion of why she loved it so, she discusses the form, the handles, the salt accumulation and the ash, all to be expected from someone who helped the world understand what good pots are, but she went on to note its imperfections, and to include these in the reasons that it was her favorite.  She said it’s like people, everyone has a flaw.

It is this accumulated wisdom that I carried away from the read.  Her life was spent in clay, and it was her passion.  Through making objects she seems to have made herself, and her view of the world.  A simple wish to be useful, that carried itself into so many lives and influenced so many others.  In the photos she cradles the pot like a beloved pet or a happy baby, it reminds me of the simple pleasure in making objects and the wonders that a life making has to offer.

http://www.janetmansfield.com