When Michelle Grabner curated the Whitney Biennial a line was drawn, a declaration that there is a clear role of ceramics in the contemporary “high“ art discourse. So let the battle begin. Who is to use this material now as an “artist”? What is the material’s overall purpose in and out of an art context? Its function? Its place in the hallowed halls of the art canon? Satan Ceramics at Salon 94 responds to the antiquated feminist ideology explored by Grabner of a material that has now been transformed by a collective of four artists.
The Contemporary Ceramics Manifesto’s simple and rather poetic five word break down by artist JJ Peet “Brain To Hand To Object” discusses the pure human desire to create and defines in some way the use of ceramics as a characteristic of humanity. Anthropologists and Archeologists have written dissertations and scholarly articles about the role of ceramics in the devolvement of societies. Old world art historians have cataloged cultural development and societal constructs of ornamentation on the sides of vessels. Fruit Bowl an object in Satan Ceramics is exactly what it claims to be: a fruit bowl; it is adorned with sexualized women embraced partially nude. This object plays whimsically with the notion of connoisseurship within a certain museum context. With the works painting and glazing of the erotic scene, a finite reference to Attic Black figure pottery, can be derived with a smile.
The “object” and functionality go in tandem when discussing ceramics. Again my thoughts go back to ancient Mediterranean pottery and its role in society at its time of creation. Are the cups and vases found in graves that were masterfully painted used as devotional objects or were they used in the living realm as functioning in the ways they seem to be intended to be? The Proxy Cups by JJ Peet in the Satan Ceramics have this concept as a point of departure and then go into the depths of the contemporary discussion of the role of the object. By the very nature of calling them Proxy Cups the works automatically loose functionality and become strictly art objects. This is the true genius of the exhibition, although most pieces in the show can be used in some way outside of art, they are strictly intended as art.
In this same vain Cyclops by Tom Sachs, Grannyskate and any of the Issue Pages by Pat McCarthy allude to the real world outside of art, however they should be seen strictly as hyper intellectual explorations of post feminist ceramic objects. I am sorry if this is not the artist’s intention but in a sign signifier way this is the only way one should view the works. Cyclops, even in its title, alludes to the Greeks as much of the show does to me. It is a clunky yet elegant boom box something out of the stone age, an object I would want to put on my mantel if I could own it and proudly turn on from time to time for its novel functionality. But it is an art object not a stereo regardless if it picks up a signal. Grannyskate is a perfect little sculpture especially knowing many connected to the world that this work grows from.
Satan Ceramics is a game-changing exhibition. It is fun for any art lover to experience. However it truly needs to be understood at the height of intellectualism. The show could be one of the greatest contributions Jeanne Greenberg-Rohatyn’s Salon 94 has been part off and she has been around…
Satan Ceramics at Salon 94
September 07 – October 25, 20141 Freeman Alley
New York, NY, 10002
Article by Robert Dimin
Photography provided by the gallery and the artists