A group show of works by eight artists presenting an ensemble of unabashedly delicate and highly decorative works that employ non-traditional craft materials and techniques to arrive at an expression of exquisite beauty that pleasures the eye and quivers the soul.
Opening Reception: Thursday April 29th: 6-8pm
On View: April 29th - May 22nd, 2021, Wednesday to Saturday, 12 - 6pm
Equity Gallery 245 Broome Street, New York, NY 10002
Eight gay and queer-identifying artists present an ensemble of unabashedly delicate and highly decorative works that employ non-traditional craft materials and techniques to arrive at an expression of exquisite beauty that pleasures the eye and quivers the soul.
For the vast majority of our planet’s inhabitants, life in the immediate aftermath of the COVID pandemic presents an anxious premonitory landscape inciting a narrow range of fear laden and negative responses. An alternative point of view, borrowed from individuals and groups that have weathered similar perilous episodes, allows that the very nature of turbulence propels instances of revelatory phenomena with near equivalent power. Susceptibility to these epiphanic forces seems linked to an individual’s or group’s aptitude to tolerate and remain attentive to the charged dynamics swirling about them while remaining essentially intact---a “wholeness” achieved through a hyper-awareness of what constitutes the core self in relationship to the self’s aptitude for creative manufacturing --the products, affectations, and transformations that allow for adaptive survival and more importantly, unexpected flights of the spirit.
For an individual, or a select group, the sum total of these adaptive expressions becomes a language onto itself---an insider argot secreting an inner strength and solidarity that confirms well-being as an achievable aspiration that shores up the individual and safeguards the group. Exuberance, by extension, becomes the best defense. The LGTBQ community, coming under the broad heading of “gay” or “queer”, well exemplifies a group having assembled a richly layered cultural expression---one that often trumpets an exaggerated theatricality of joy and ecstasy to scaffold a sheltering hope against hostile forces.
The exhibition “Rapture” stages a full-on display of the avenging transcendence of gaiety as a proven tactic for disarming oppression. The show features the work of seven artists that span two generations and collectively identify as gay, queer and non-binary. Chris Tanner weaponizes triviality and decorative embellishment by deploying non-traditional materials often associated with crafting, such as embroidery, sewing notions, beads, baubles and glittery sequins, to produce intricate sculptural forms that aim to pleasure the eye with an escapist holiday replete with dazzling displays of color, form and texture. Tanner’s installation will focus on his latest driftwood transformations that are fairytale spectacles of bejeweled splendor .
Andrew Cornell Robinson, a multimedia artist known to infuse his composite works with design, craft and fine art elements, will display ceramic vessels from his “My Cup Runneth Over” series. Created using traditional raku methods, a firing process initially invented for pottery intended for tea ceremonies (raku translates to “pleasure”), the pieces display dense black surfaces glazed over with shimmering jewel tones further heightened by embellishments of gold, glitter, paint and collaged paper.
Peter Hristoff ’s paintings and Sean O’Conner paper constructions similarly blur the line between art and design and mimic patterns one might see in wallpapers, printed fabrics, and quilts. Both employ a collage-inspired technique; for Hristoff , we see all-encompassing, edge-to-edge compositions cast with shadowy silhouettes that activate surface effects and hint at homo-romantic intentions. O’Connor’s naïve cut-outs similarly re-contextualize silhouettes, in this instance borrowing from Grecian urns and classical motifs to arrive at surrealist figure compositions that recall the ephemeral delicacy of Jean Cocteau. Cocteau’s sighing sensual line resurfaces in Harrison Tenzer’s high-chroma graphics that speak in layered hieroglyphs about biomorphic encounters that range from the pornographic to the miraculous.
Like Tenser’s drawings, Adrian Milton’s paintings and Wade Schaming’s sculptures, explore the language of abstraction to arrive at a queer aesthetic. Milton, a true child of the sixties, creates psychedelic geometries that recall the glittering flamboyance of his gender-bending drag performances as a Cockette. A magpie, Schaming hordes a wild and colorful assortment of mass- produced detritus and stockpiles it into teetering towers -- a perhaps too obvious symbol of fickle male desire and the paradox of the queer gaze which conflates prey and predator.
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A few years ago, I found myself on a very long flight from Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates returning home from a project. Tired of reading I put on my headphones and proceeded to watch Mad Men. In the scene pictured I noticed the ceramic coffee cups. Having been trained as a potter from an early age, and familiar with that type of ware, I was reminded of the first time I became curious about ceramics, and design, and how these seemingly common objects connect us to a larger world, and to human history. As a boy, I would sit with my family at the kitchen table and reach out to take a sip from a brightly colored ceramic cup that I’d drank from countless times. The bottom was an earthy red/brown and the body, the surface was glazed white and decorated in yellows, ocher and a floral pattern. There was an outline scratching through the white ground to reveal the clay body below. I found myself fascinated by this seemingly banal “every day” object that I’d never given much thought to before.
Turning over the cup, I discovered it had been made in Trenton, NJ. A place not too far from where I grew up; a town whose slogan had been “Trenton Makes and the World Takes.”
Stangl famous for a type of Faience dinnerware, was America's first open stock solid-color dinnerware manufacturer. Stangl went so far as to Patent their “invention”, in spite of it being based on a tin glaze method that according to scholars like Alan Caiger-Smith, is based on innovations by 9th century Persian potters who added tin oxide to their glazes to opacify them and then paint over-glaze decorations with cobalt, iron, and copper. For over one thousand years, this technique influenced ceramic glaze methods and styles in maiolica, faience and delftware from the Islamic world and Europe across the Atlantic to the Americas.
According to the late potter and scholar Alan Caiger-Smtih, “Traditions are like rivers. The main river can be mapped and measured. Tributaries feed it… it widens and is merged with the sea. Its source is often unknown. Has the idea of a beginning any meaning except as a theoretical point on a map? So it is with the tradition of tin-glaze ware: the main tradition is clear, but the beginnings are lost to history.
The earliest archeological examples can be traced back to the middle east, Mesopotamia, about the ninth century. Tin glaze potteries are thought to have existed at or near Bagdad and on the eastern bank of the Nile River south of modern Cairo, etc., but who can say there were not many others, perhaps more will be uncovered over time. That said, from the sixth century through to today we can trace a fascinating migration and evolution of ceramic techniques across the globe from China, India, Persia, the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, the Mediterranean, Europe and the Americas.
As we trace this history we might ask some questions such as:
• How do materials, motifs, and ideas travel across the globe?
• What happens when they arrive at a destination?
• How does art from one culture change or inspire the art of another?
• By considering some of these questions, we can explore the kinds of art that may be made when cultures meet.
Changing attitudes and emerging social behaviors in food preparation and the social and cultural rituals of eating have lead to changes in the way tableware is made and used.
In this short course we will explore historical and contemporary forms of table ware design. Through lectures, class discussion, research and making through drawing, modeling and prototyping in clay we will consider new categories of tableware and new roles for familiar as well as sculptural pieces. If you’re wondering what are the most appropriate forms and designs to use in your work, you’ll gain a better understanding of what’s current and gain an appreciation of the challenges and opportunities makers confront in their creative practice.
Tuesdays July 07 through August 25, 2020. 11:00 AM-1:00 PM EST Level: Intermediate / Advanced Space is limited
In this workshop I will focus on paper templates, slab, coil, and pinched forms used to make everything from plates and bowls to mugs and handles. We will discuss shapes as well as approaches to design, ranging from the practical and ergonomic to the poetic, and playful.
For this workshop, you will need a computer with Zoom. Students are welcome to act upon the project prompts and try the techniques with me as we progress from week to week. I have found its best to use the class time on zoom to sit back and take notes. The sessions will be recorded and sent to students for future reference. I’m excited to invite you into my studio to share craft strategies and answer questions about the process of making. I will send an email with a Zoom link with details to registered students before the Tuesday workshops.
This series of workshops requires a few tools. This list of suggested tools is not required for the workshop but may help when you try it on your own.
Scoring tool (a fork will do)
Metal or rubber rib
Small container for water
A bat or board
Paper for templates (Tarpaper also known as “roofing felt” can be found at any hardware home center. Typical grades are 15 lb. and 30 lb. weight, which indicates the thickness. I like to use the sturdier 30 lb. grade for making templates for large forms.)
Utility Knife and/or Scissors
Cutting Surface (you can use a board or a self-healing cutting matt)
Robinson’s artwork examines and highlights the historical, collective, and often cyclical nature of the visual language of revolution and unrest. His multidisciplinary work is currently showcased in an online-only exhibition, “Andrew Cornell Robinson: The Time of Protest and Plague,” now featured on our WING project space and Artsy profile. View work from the exhibition on Artsy
Studio in the Time of Protest and Plague.
June 10, 2020 Interview with Andrew Cornell Robinson
By Michael Gormley
Living in a city driven by artistic ambition, “What are you working on” is the go-to question meant to quickly distill the daring of one’s aspirational reach, the aesthetic value of its form and the intent and likelihood of financial success and lasting fame. In the upheaval of social unrest and pandemic, the question sizes up how one is to staying alive. Over the past three months Equity has been posting text, images and videos of pandemic projects its member artists have been engaged in.
The exhibition, Queer and Peculiar Craft presents an intersectional group of artists each of whom have an uncanny visual language composed of cast-off histories and unexpected applications of craft materials. Koren Christofides, Greg Climer, Roxanne Jackson, Brian Kenny, Edmund Green Langdell, Phoenix Lindsey-Hall, Vick Quezada, Andrew Cornell Robinson, Timo Rissanen, Juana Valdes, and Lu Zhang.
Many of the liberating impulses since 1968 have led to significant changes in the way our society defines itself. There is now a much greater consciousness of the world’s multiculturalism and an understanding that not every person aspires to a utopian modernist model of progress that the West once believed to be an unquestioned absolute. A contemporary outgrowth of this shift is evidenced in the revival of craft materials and the ways that the crafts have opened up from material centered disciplines to idea infused functional, aesthetic, and conceptual creative strategies. The makers in this exhibition employ strategies in order to give voice to their search for personal and cultural identity in contrast to imposed standards of normalcy, which often deprive people of affirmative images so that they may not see themselves as actors in their own biography and society. Yet when these new voices, and visual languages push the boundaries of an accepted norm, they are seen as other, as strange, queer and peculiar.
According to the historian David J. Getsy, to nominate something as “queer” is to cast aspersion on it as being unnatural, incorrect, wrong, or abnormal. Anything called “queer” is looked at with suspicion and intensified scrutiny... As the most visible and mobile manifestation of the policing of the boundaries of the “normal,” the “natural,” and “common” sense, the label “queer” was historically used to tyrannize those who loved, desired, or lived differently. When lesbian, gay, and bisexual activists and thinkers rejected the presumption that they should assimilate and aspire to be merely tolerated, they embraced “queer” as a rallying cry. They upheld as a virtue their failure to fit into the normal. While the label “queer” is often associated with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or gender non conforming, the concept in the context of the makers featured in this exhibition is intersectional in that they explore a multitude of identities, ideas and craft traditions by creating works that may appear peculiar looking, feeling or functioning in their explorations of craft materials as well as topics that range from feminism, gender identity, queer visibility, ethnicity, immigration, sexuality, history, and politics.
The implication of queer peculiarity applied to the construction of otherness offers a simultaneous burden and an opportunity for each of these artists who come to their work with unique lived experiences and perspectives. The immigrant experience offers one way of seeing society through the lens of belonging or not. Juana Valdes explores her lived experiences and observations about migration as a complex process, constructing history through a continuum that involves the personal journey of the Afro-Cuban diasporic community into a new homeland. Her work examines craft materials and methods and in several of her works, she traces the post-colonial history of the Americas and the intercontinental trade in people and porcelain. Lu Zhang is an artist, born in Xian, China, who lives and works in New York. Her ceramic constructions of computers and tablets explore her sense of living between cultures. The roughly modeled ceramic rendering of video chats with her family in China reflect the experience of being in two cultures at once, but not quite fitting into either.
Artists Koren Christofides, and Roxanne Jackson explore ideas of female power with a sense of humor and fantastic forms modeled and manipulated out of clay and other media. Their creative explorations often touch upon human nature as seen through the lens of magic, mythology, and proverbs about women.
Greg Climer’s series of quilts inverts the traditional methods for quilt construction by creating the fabric fragments rather than upcycling scraps. He has been working with digital tools to compose larger abstractions of intimate, poignant and sometimes transgressive portraits of queer people. Fashion designer Edmund Green Langdell is creating a platform that seeks to uplift the health and wellbeing of transgender people through the creation of hand made crochet or needle felted packers designed to affirm the silhouette in apparel for transgedner people. Brian Kenny’s multidisciplinary works explore autobiographical themes of his queer identity, shifting societal perceptions about gender, sexuality and politics. His banners are composed of a patchwork of sports jerseys and vinyl advertisements pieced together to celebrate exuberant expressions of the masculine queer gaze. Timo Rissanen explores craft through cross-stiched poetry, and memory resulting in works that reflect upon his lived experiences of discrimination as a gay man as well as celebrations of desire and reflections upon the objectified body.
Vick Quezada’s projects explore the material histories and consciousness of Indigenous- Latinx hybridity within Western culture. They use a variety of media, and performances embodying ancient Nahuan rites to simultaneously make the obscured visible. Their work in this exhibition uses smoke-fired terracotta to create a series of prison cafeteria trays, reflecting upon the humble platform for countless shared meals of millions of imprisoned people. Their artifacts, delineate inherent systems of power and subjectivity in the Americas, while transgressing “official” historical accounts.
Most queer people face the daily challenge of being their authentic self in societies that often are indifferent or openly hostile to them. In response to notions of visibility Andrew Cornell Robinson’s ceramic and mixed media sculptures explore historical customs as a metaphor for queer-baiting and conformity. His Jamon Jamon series is inspired by the medieval Spanish tradition of offering ham to house guests. This customary form of hospitality may seem commonplace today, but its historical roots come from a desire to sniff out heresy during the inquisition when the pious were looking for expressions of distaste in response to the offer of sliced pork. His use of butchered cuts of ham serve as a metaphor about being “suspected”, and “queer-baited” as a gay man. The sculptures are modeled, cast, and camouflaged with inlaid surface glazes, printed images and hidden messages.
Phoenix Lindsey-Hall’s work centers around violence, loss and memory. Phoenix uses porcelain and stoneware to create sculptures that are based on extensive historical research about violence, hate crimes, and queer histories. Her unique explorations of events and artifacts focus on members of queer communities. Some examples include her porcelain casts of weapons used in hate-crimes, and others include artifacts that serve as evidence of queer lives lived. “I have discovered that the everyday objects that are left behind create an instant memorial.” The works included in this queer and peculiar exhibition ask how we might imagine, make, live and see differently.
The Clemente Abrazo Interno Gallery 107 Suffolk Street, New York, NY 10002. www.theclementecenter.org Dec 5, 2019 through Jan 18, 2020. On view Wed - Sun 12-7pm.
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Queer + Peculiar Craft is curated by Fred Frelinghuysen Presents and Andrew C. Robinson. Support for this exhibition is provided by The Clemente, and the Arts + Crafts Research Studio.