AMBACH & RICE is thrilled to announce Shamrock Edelweiss Seaweed, the gallery's first solo exhibition with Seattle based artist Jeffry Mitchell. For over twenty-five years Mitchell has produced idiosyncratic drawings, prints and sculptures. His oeuvre seamlessly combines high and low references that span religion, sex, nature, fine art, folk and decorative arts traditions.
Intuition and sincerity are hallmarks of Mitchell’s practice and Shamrock Edelweiss Seaweed showcases this veteran artist at the height of his artistic prowess. His most recent outsized ceramic works possess a genuine sense of urgency, curiosity and experimentation.
The main gallery will be inhabited by five large-scale ceramic sculptures with an iridescent brown glaze reminiscent of Pennsylvania Dutch pottery. From afar works suggest abstract piles of refuse, positive and negative space collapsing into one another. It is not until the viewer engages at closer proximity that the sculptures begin to yield a plethora of imagery, flora and fauna, drawing, text, and anatomy. The slippery legibility of these works will be further heightened by the dim illumination of three ad hoc Noguchi-esqe freestanding paper lanterns.
The three largest works are comprised of stacked pots encumbered by drooping chains, protruding fists, flowers and beads. The clustered entropic surfaces of these precarious totems evoke exuberance and ambivalence, fertility and impotence. Flowers, which are pervasive throughout the exhibit, have been a recurrent motif throughout Mitchell's career. The most persistent iterations are the lotus pod, (a Buddhist symbol of faith and creativity) the dogwood
blossom (a symbol of the Crucifixion and a nod to the artist's Catholic upbringing) and an imaginary five-petal flower found in Disney's Bambi. Throughout Mitchell’s work emblems of innocence and loss nullify one another's supremacy to exude a pathos and humility grounded in altruism.
During the production of Shamrock Edelweiss Seaweed, American cartoonists such as George Herriman, R. Crumb and Charles Schultz served as a tremendous source of inspiration. Mitchell found particular resonance in each of these artists' examination of spiritual and existential concerns through the guise of humor. Mitchell also pays subtle tribute to the late works of Philip Guston, in particular Poor Richard, his illustrated account of President Richard Nixon's life and career. Guston's phallic depiction of Nixon's head appears on a number of Mitchell's ceramic works.
Shamrock Edelweiss Seaweed examines the conflicted pursuits of both pleasure and transcendence, pitting freedom against restraint, like a drunk shaman coming to terms with his fallibility, laughing and crying at an altar of absurdity.
Jeffry Mitchell was born in Seattle, WA. He received his MFA from Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. Recent exhibitions include Kurt (group) Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, Dirt on Delight (group) Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA, and Contemporary Northwest Art Awards, Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR. Mitchell received a Joan Mitchell Grant in 2009. His work can be found in numerous public collections including the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, Philadelphia Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA and the Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR. The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA will host a career spanning retrospective of Mitchell's work in the Fall of 2012.