Multiplicity: Contemporary Ceramic Sculpture
The Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, University of Texas at El Paso
Amy V. Grimm
Bean Finneran, Red Core, 2004
Low-fire clay, glaze, acrylic stain
30 x 9 inches
Multiplicity: Contemporary Ceramic Sculpture explores the dynamics of repetition employed by eight artists from across the country. Moving beyond reiteration in terms of Pop Art/Warhol, Minimalism/Judd, mass media and the history of ceramic sculpture, Multiplicity successfully exposes how these particular artists use repetition as a device while employing ceramicsa medium often thought of as part of the craft worldin a contemporary context. The ten works on display generate interesting symmetry in what is overall a rather asymmetrical installation.
Four artistsBean Finneran, Shawn Busse, Marek Cecula and Jeanne Quinnproduce works that share an interest in balance, symmetry and, to some extent, formalism. Red Core and White Cone, both hand-coiled ceramic works, demonstrate Finneran's ability to create a big impact with visual economy. Modest in scale and harmonious in juxtaposition, the title and form of Red Core is evocative of a volcano and crater, while in White Cone we see a shape that resembles a fake Christmas tree. Our imaginations may run wild, but Finneran brings us back to the essence of the material and process at handto the rough-hewn texture of his hand-coiled works.
In contrast to Finneran's organic aesthetic is Shawn Busse's Metronomeeight milky-colored ceramic violins cradled in cast-iron cases. Numbered and bearing letters and barcodes, each instrument is suspended to form a line, which feels industrial, like an assembly line. Similar in presentation is Marek Cecula's Interface Set IV, which encourages whimsical interactionviewer interfacewith the sculpture. The fleshy color and form of a human ear is repeated in five blocks placed in a row, each with a gold hole through the center. One can look through the work and see the other side of the rooma humorous dislocation of the function of our auditory and visual senses.
The organic, fluid symmetry and balance of Porcelain Curtain by Jeanne Quinn is a refreshing contrast to industrial repetition in aforementioned works. Quinn's works have a decorative quality; multiplicity, in her case, is attained through patterned symmetry. Porcelain Curtain reminds one of home; the color behind her wall-mounted sculpture resembles a Victorian parlor. Each piece of the curtain is carefully attached to the other like a chandelier but with the delicate texture of icing.
Key Hwang, Generation II, 2001-2002
Juana Valdes, Kay Hwang, Gregory Roberts and Denise Pelletier also employ repetition but duplicate objects with slight variations or install the same objects in various ways creating asymmetrical repetition. Valdes created numerous individually cast ceramic boats for her large-scale installation The Journey Within. These sculptures look similar to little folded paper boats. As children, we were accustomed to sitting on the floor to play, and Valdes' multiples, arranged as if moving atop an imaginary lake, invite such interaction. In this respect, she successfully taps into our collective visual memory.
Generation II by Kay Hwang includes several clay sculptures attached directly to the wall. These white clay forms, some with red on their tips, protrude into space like abstracted phalluses. But in the context of the multiples on view, we can also imagine the breaking flight patterns of migratory birds, bowling pins, torpedoes, submarines or bombsa sort of commingling of beauty and destructive potential.
Denise Pelletier, Pugáre, 2006
Porcelain, mixed media
Denise Pelletier's Purgáre is a complex and dynamic work made of porcelain and mixed media. The title, which means to scour or cleanse, seems obvious after we look at repeated forms that include bedpans, portable urinals and other materials related to hygiene. However, an implied sickliness remains. Pelletier's small abstract drawings that accompany the ceramic works are elusive but also somewhat provocative in terms of bodily functionsof rubber, flesh, hygiene, chaos, damage and distortion.
(background) Gregory Roberts, Same But Different, 2004
Glazed stoneware, honycomb ceramic, epoxy
80 x 60 x 12 inches
(foreground) Bean Finneran, White Cone, 2004
Low-fire clay, glaze, acrylic stain
4 x 4 feet
Same But Different by Gregory Roberts is a dark, powerful work consisting of seven separate half domes attached to the wall like gigantic olives or gumdrops; in the center is a bone-colored, honeycomb-patterned disc. The works are not arranged symmetrically; consequently, the implication of a spiral suggests movement. The work's visual weight and implied mobility is an echo of the early industrial age, when machines were venerated and the idea of production was inextricably linked to power and wealth. Perhaps in this respect, Roberts' title challenges the viewer to question the role of repetition and multiplicity in a larger sense, as do all the works included in Multiplicity to varying degrees of success.