THE SOUND OF IT
Expanding her reach into the possibilities of making sculpture with clay and glaze, Arlene Shechet articulates forms that hover between representation, abstraction, and the sublime. With her sculpture, Shechet extends the precarious by using a new coil method in which the lines of clay hold together but are barely attached. On the verge of unraveling or in the process of being woven, they incorporate an element of drawing as well as tension into the three dimensional form. Shown in relationship to other wheel-thrown and hand-built clay, the resulting shapes are both unidentifiable and unnameable in a palette whose colors are similarly elusive. Falling somewhere between beauty and ugliness, elegance and clumsiness, and humor and pathos, these material but ethereal pieces have obvious emotional, psychological and philosophical associations. Large forms: puffing and floating, leaning and extending, barely balancing; Shechets sculptures both embarrass and compel.
In another breakthrough, Shechet has turned the ceramic firing process inside out. She has fired and glazed the internal elements of the kiln: the stacked fire bricks, and used them as architecture in dialogue with her hybrid forms. The painted bricks clash and converse with the ceramics, further confusing any single reading of the sculptures as derived from the natural world.
And then comes color. Non-traditional glazes, fired into the forms, in ways that sometimes make them appear to grow from within the shapes, land on the sculptures surfaces in waves of colors and textures. In hues ranging from mercury to gem-like greens, light blues, transparent cottony-whites and bloody reds, these glazes drip, drape, and glisten.
Recalling that the original name for the Freudian unconscious was not the id but the it, Shechets sculptures, like the sound her title evokes, have reverberations beyond the visual. They dance, laugh, weep, dazzle and delight.
Arlene Shechet lives and works in New York City and Upstate New York. She has exhibited her work extensively in the United States and abroad in important exhibitions including recent solo shows, Blow by Blow, curated by Ian Berry, at the F.Y. Tang Museum at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, (monograph); and Here and There, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, CO, both 2009; and group exhibitions, Seriously Funny, Scottsdale Museum of Art, AZ, curated by Cassandra Coblentz and Clarie Carter; and Dirt on Delight, ICA Philadelphia, PA and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN curated by Ingrid Schaffner and Jenelle Porter (catalogue). Shechets work is included in both public and private collections all over the world including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY. She is the recipient of a John S. Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship Award as well as three separate New York Foundation for the Arts awards. Shechet is currently working on a permanent site-specific project that will be integrated into a new building for Bard College initiated by Kiki Smith.