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Art Hag on Peculiar Craft by Pam Wong

Queer + Peculiar Craft | The Clemente Currently on view at The Clemente in the Lower East Side is Queer + Peculiar Craft, an exhibition of contemporary ceramics and textiles that examines identity and challenges viewers' expectations of craft.

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Curated by Andrew Cornell Robinson, the exhibit showcases “an inter-sectional group of artists who explore craft to transgress expectations of traditional materials, methods, and meaning,” according to the show’s press release. The show features a diverse selection of subversive work that includes pottery, quilting, cross-stitching, printmaking, and crochet employed in unconventional and refreshing ways.

Plug (Yellow, Black and White)Stoneware, glaze, stain, cork, 16 x 7 x 7 inches

One artist featured in the show, Koren Christofides, explores feminism through ceramics. In an email, Robinson explained that some of Christofides' works are soft sculptures made with industrial ceramic fiber insulation covered in paper clay, resulting in pieces that are simultaneously “familiar and strange.” For his prismatic quilts featuring erotic males nudes, Greg Climer reinterprets traditional quilt-making methods by “creating the fabric fragments rather than upcycling scraps,” according to the exhibition essay.

Phoenix Lindsey-Hall’s ceramic sculptures play with “repetition and formalism,” according to Robinson. “It uses that formalism to include queer stories within the framework of contemporary aesthetics.” Her Fourteen Blows features a row of white porcelain claw hammers—a weapon used in hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community—protruding limply from a wall. Robinson’s own ceramic and mixed media sculptures included in the show “explore historical customs as a metaphor for queer-baiting and conformity.” The sculptures in his Jamon Jamon series reference a medieval Spanish custom in which hosts offered ham to visitors to “sniff out heresy during the inquisition when the pious were looking for expressions of distaste in response to the offer of sliced pork,” the exhibit essay explains. His Jamon Jamon sculptures are a “metaphor about being ‘suspected’ and ‘queer-baited’ as a gay man." Inspiration for Queer + Peculiar Craft came from a 1993 interview with the late artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres for A.R.T. Press. When asked about the lack of “overt political or Latino content” in his work, Gonzalez-Torres responded: “I’m not a good token. I don’t wear the right colors. I have my own agenda. Some people want to promote multiculturalism as long as they are the promoters, the circus directors. We have an assigned role that’s very specific, very limited….” “[Gonzalez-Torres] expressed an impatience that I could identity with as a gay man making art,” Robinson noted. “I felt empowered by his question, ‘Who is going to define my culture?’”


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