contemporary art curator. writer. cultural critic
A Whisper of Where It Came From highlights works by six artists who integrate ceramics into their broader mixed-media art practices including painting, printmaking, sculpture, collage, and installation. Artists Huma Bhabha, Nicole Cherubini, Mark Cooper, Jiha Moon, Sterling Ruby, and Arlene Shechet each activate the tactility of clay by creating surfaces that capture the gesture of the artist’s hand. The works of art, created during the past decade, include references to figuration, abstraction, landscape, and still life traditions.
Arlene Shechet’s gestural sculptures embody notions of improvisation in the playfulness of shapes and colors she employs, and become a record of the artist’s hand through the built layers and impressions formed in the clay. Giving equal focus to form and duration in her sculpture, Shechet’s practice is akin to the Buddhist philosophy of considering the whole of the work. Mark Cooper’s mixed-media installations feature organically shaped structures, lotus flower–like ceramic vessels and vibrantly colored forms displaying stylistic influences from Asian art and culture. Korean-born Jiha Moon draws attention to complex cultural iconography by blending references such as computer emoticons, lotus blossoms, Hopi Kachina figures, and talisman-like works inspired by Korean norigae in her paintings and sculptural ceramic objects and installations.
Artist Huma Bhabha imaginatively combines raw and industrial materials such as clay, plexiglass, wood, wire, and Styrofoam to create forms whose gestures convincingly mimic the human body. Bhabha’s crude gestural portraits drawn and collaged onto photographs of abstracted earth textures, rubble, and landscapes, serve as a setting for her sculptural works and provide imagery that speaks to the artist’s inspiration from the landscape in and around her birthplace of Karachi, Pakistan. Sterling Ruby’s large-scale ceramic basins are loaded with an array of ceramic objects made to resemble tools, rocks, animal tusks, and shards of rusted metal. Gathered inside the pinched, poked, and prodded vessel’s interior and splashed with glazes in an earthy palette, Ruby’s collection of disparate objects appears both fossilized and fresh. In her practice, Nicole Cherubini uses both ceramic and unfired clay, finished and working material, to approach historical and contemporary motifs of vessels and tiles. Together, artist’s works in A Whisper of Where It Came From speak to the expanded field of contemporary ceramics.