Seminal 20th century Italian designer and one of the founding members of the highly influential Memphis Group, Ettore Sottsass once said, "Ceramics are older than the bible and Jesus Christ, older than all the poems ever written, older than all the houses, older than all metals. Ceramics support everything... They bear culture, as ethnologists say, societies, people, kingdoms, sultanates, and even empires...the whole truth is there. (1962)
Ceramics have always held exceptional importance throughout history. Over 10,000 years ago, Mesopotamian men and women utilized earth and clay to create tiles, vases and vessels of cultural and religious significance. From the mythological Greek vases to the Chinese terra-cotta soldiers, ceramics have played a prominent role in every major artistic movement. Today, ceramics are in a new age of revival, with contemporary artists focusing on design and form while paying homage to their historical roots.
This weekend, Cooler Gallery in Brooklyn tackles the weight of this medium through a simple concept, The Bust. Curated by gallery director (as well as designer and architect) Michael Yarinsky along with two notable ceramic artists Josephine Heilpern and Julianne Ahn, the collaborative effort brings forth eighteen contemporary artists to each present a single, free-standing piece. Ranging from figurative to abstract, the exhibition is a veritable display of how ceramics have since evolved from it’s practical ancient roots.
Michael elaborates: “Cooler Gallery is just outside outside the Brooklyn Navy Yard — the physical border of large art, design, and manufacturing communities. The curation aims to reflect the essence of this intersection. The gallery seeks to be a breeding ground for thought at the crossing of fine art, design and manufacturing. As a general guideline, artists have engaged the space itself, incorporated ideas of material/form/space/color/texture, and genuinely inspire delight or reflection. In terms of ceramics specifically, I can’t think of a better medium for artists that so perfectly marries aesthetics and craft.”
Each artist in the show addresses ceramics in their own unique way. From the referential and functional to the post-modern and conceptual, there are few parallels to draw between the work other than their base material. Los Angeles based artist Ben Medansky layers simplistic form atop one another until an assemblage style sculpture is chained together, completely uniform in abstract patterned shape. On the other end of the stylistic spectrum, Pacific Northwest artist Emily Counts offers a more representational piece with a serious nod to the classic Roman bust with incorporated electronic elements.
Design and functionality have always been at the epicenter of ceramics, with a long practical history, BUSTED explores a new trend in the practice with expert curatorial perception and a sharp aesthetic edge. BUSTED is on view at Cooler Gallery September 2nd through the 22nd with an opening reception set to take place this Saturday from 6 - 9pm. Participating artists include: Julianne Ahn, Emily Counts, Jessica Hans, Josephine Heilpern, Natalie Herrera, Giselle Hicks, Linda Lopez, Lincoln Mayne, Ben Medansky, Rebecca Morgan, Mari Ogihara, Mike Perry, Michele Quan, Amy Santoferraro, Erin Lynn Smith, Paul Wackers, Joey Watson, and Pilar Wiley. —Jessica Ross