Conjurings & Concoctions
Exhibition Essay by Paul D’Agostino
An interest in the expressive potential of processes and ideas pertaining to admixtures and amalgamations, in materials and concept alike, coheres the creative practices of Stephanie Hargrave, Andrew Cornell Robinson and Ben Pritchard. This is true in a general sense, as they have all been working in such modes for many years. It’s particularly true, however, with regard to their studio production this year, selections from which constitute the materially rich and mystically spirited works that find convergence in Conjurings & Concoctions. Thick strata of scumbles, spills, brushstrokes, scrapes, drips, smears and scrawls factor into Ben Pritchard’s generously textured oil paintings. These facets of somewhat evasive or unstable facture find ultimate confluence, however, in bold forms that seem to both draw from and manifest ex nihilo entire systems of divinatory symbols, celestial mappings, indecipherable runes. Pritchard’s surfaces might elude, in other words, but his representations assert. Consequently, a small work like Power seems to convey landscape and figure alike as the latter rises through the former, or as the former settles atop the latter — or perhaps the artist’s robustly made marks depict the form of a temple seeking alignment with the stars above. In Debate, background and foreground remain shifty and uncertain in the work’s otherwise formally declarative black and white registers. And in Darkness, a slow-moving circuit of bright yellow marks provides an elegantly brushy, curiously nestling framework for a punchy red orb. Variable saturations and surface treatments yield pared down yet similar results in Pritchard’s works on paper. Andrew Cornell Robinson works consistently in more media and in a broader range of processes than many artists might work in a lifetime. He’s as comfortable shaping clay on a potter’s wheel as he is filling walls with delicate drawings, binding prints and texts into books, making paintings and sculptures for installations, and devising video and photo shoots for narrative-driven exhibitions. Several of these aspects of his work are on display in Conjurings & Concoctions. Ultimately monotypes, the artist’s works on paper in the show, operating in primary-colored concert with one another, evidence a more layered process upon closer scrutiny, revealing themselves to be monotypes executed atop serialized prints of texts and small drawings extracted from an archive of sketches and notes. Quite materially different are Robinson’s ceramics in a series he calls My Cup Runneth Over, in which an almost alchemical admixture of colorful glazes, stains, glitters and gold overlays encourage these ostensibly empty cups to fully spill their guts. Exquisitely beguiling in form and material alike, Robinson’s Memento Mori sculptures present as exuberant apparitions, iconic conjurings of mysterious deities whispering forth from tree hollows in enchanted forests. An enchanted forest, perhaps, is just the place where Stephanie Hargrave’s sculptural amalgamations would find themselves right at home. In her works presented in Conjurings & Concoctions, Hargrave combines stoneware, encaustic, metal and other media to create objects and ephemeral images that are vaguely familiar as forms of known things, but that ultimately resist recognition as specific things or known forms. They are organic; they are inorganic. They are human-hewn, perhaps utilitarian masses; they are the settled matters of nature’s timeless exhalations, growths and primordial gases. Hybrid 25, for instance, is a petrified bubbling puckering out into the open to exhale, or it’s the vacated dwelling of an ancient mollusk. Flashik might be a rattle-like musical instrument for a mysterious rite, or it might be a battle-worn weapon of warfare. It might also be some undying organism whose length of tooth has left it biding its time with arduous, slowly gnashing bites. An especially peculiar object even in the midst of so much strangeness is Hargrave’s Bucaro. Executed in clay and encaustic, it appears as a crimson-saturated, drippily drenched, cardial tissue-like issue pumping lifebloods into and all over itself, and maybe also into its kindred others all around it. As you poke about in the imagined realm of Conjurings & Concoctions, it might be wise to watch your step and mistrust your eyes — while listening closely to the trees and peering up, here and there, at the skies. M. David & Co.
Ceramic Workshops with Andrew Cornell Robinson. Through lectures, class discussion, research and making through drawing, modeling and prototyping in clay we will imagine and make new forms for the table from the practical to the poetic.
A memory of tin glazed pottery, and the cross cultural permuations of this glaze from ancient persia to Trenton, New Jersey.