The ten artists in Modern Times, organized by Shari Mendelson, use the vessel as a vehicle for social and political commentary and/or as an exploration of form – indebted to history, yet engaged in a contemporary dialogue.
“I have been studying the vessels at the Metropolitan Museum for many years. From early Greek and Roman glass bottles and terra-cotta animals, to ceramic burial jars from the Korean Renaissance, to delicate Syrian goblets – my interests are broad. I love these vessels not only for their beauty, but for the mysteries they embody and the information they reveal about the history and culture of their time.” Shari Mendelson
Like their historical predecessors, the vessels in Modern Times offer visual pleasure while addressing issues that are both contemporary and timeless.
Barry Bartlett has a fascination with the hobby industry's ability to mass market our shared experiences with ceramic tchotchkes. He collects molds of soldiers, fairies, 9/11 rescue works, presidents, religious icons, etc., casts them in porcelain, and reconfigures them into surprising sculptures that depict a mash-up of current and historical events.
Mary Carlson is showing three slip cast porcelain pieces – a plate, a bowl and a cup. Her castings are frail and signs of breakage and delicate repair are evident. As Howard Foster states in a 2010 review of Carlson's work, "… the endless see-saw of international dominance pivots on the vulnerability of the domestic. Those carefully mended plates embody the private cost of politics, the cracking of the everyday…."
Jim Dingilian's work suggests the passage of time and the fleeting nature of memory. He coats the inside of empty liquor bottles with smoke then carefully erases specific areas. The smoke that remains creates the image. As Dingilian states "Empty liquor bottles found in the woods or near parking lots are artifacts of marginal activity. They provide evidence of joy, despair, companionship or isolation."
Elisabeth Kley's brightly colored, hand-built ceramics and drawings celebrate decoration. "Kley's work by and large evokes the distance of time and geography without directly appropriating extant cultural designs. ... at times recalling Persian, Venetian, Florentine, Chinese, and Moroccan design and ornament – but truly articulates no one style or artifact we can name or point to." - G. Roger Denson, Huffington Post, December 8, 2010
Shari Mendelson’s vessels are inspired by historical ceramic, glass and metal artifacts and are constructed from found plastic bottles. While making her work, she refers to the original – attempting to capture the spirit of the object. Although her pieces often diverge from the source, the making of them acts as a form of dialogue with, and reverence for, the objects of the past.
Keiko Narahashi's evocative work explores the space between volume and deflation, presence and memory, and familiarity and mystery. She makes silhouette drawings, which she gives to a potter to interpret and throw as a pot. She then alters this pot: cutting it in half, flattening it, photographing it. In Narahashi's words, "The original drawing becomes a three dimensional pot, which in turn, through my manipulations, reverts to a symbol of itself. Altering a known object in this way abstracts it – meaning is subtracted, but new emblematic meanings are acquired…."
With her series of "Sugar Vessels", Yuka Otani, a skilled glass artist, has turned her attention to the ephemeral. Her brightly colored, glass-like goblets, flutes and tumblers are cast in sugar. They slump, become opaque, or liquefy as they age. Otani writes, "I spent my adolescence in Japan in the 1990's when the immense Japanese economic bubble burst after its inflation. What seemed to be stable yesterday is not stable today – this drastic shift in social value system was branded on my memory as a strong feeling of changeability.…"
As Sarah Peters writes, "The disjointed visual language that often results when the art of one culture aspires to emulate another is a principle theme in my work." Her bronze heads are portraits of American outcasts: idealists, extremists, zealots and visionaries. These hollow heads, turned upside down or sliced open, with added handles, become vessels – dense and alive, empty, yet full of questions.
Christy Rupp, an artist known for her environmental and political sculpture and installations is showing a series of hand-felted oil and gas cans. With a pop sensibility, a wry sense of humor, and an exacting attention to detail, she creates hand-made replicas of some of the petroleum-based product that she used between 2009-2012.
Arlene Shechet has pushed and pulled the vocabulary of sculpture and the vessel to surprising places with her work in plaster, handmade paper and clay. In an interview with Ian Berry for her 2009 show at the Tang Museum, Shechet says "…I was using blue and white in my paper work to refer to architectural blue prints, and this made me suddenly sensitive to blue-and-white porcelains. … I started to look at porcelains from China, Flow Blue from England, Delftware, Willowware, a vocabulary of things both Eastern and Western… I had earlier come to believe the vase is a domestic form of sacred architecture…"