Providing close analysis and critical discourse for
material research in the arts
The selections below address contemporary interests and are aimed at a range of art programs. I am happy to offer any of these talks or to discuss other topics in recent sculptural practices.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS OUT: THE RELEVANCE OF 1920s GLASS TO CURRENT PRACTICES
Has the artworld moved beyond The Large Glass? I am speaking of Marcel Duchamp’s double-paned sculpture constructed a century ago. Is it truly contemporary in its provocation and prescience? Can The Large Glass stand up to the insistent allure of our digital technology and screen culture? And, more radical still, do other modern glass forms that are physically overlooked and critically dismissed join Duchamp’s masterpiece in its arguable presentness?
DREAMS OR TRUTH? ENCOUNTERING SCULPTURE IN THE DIGITAL AGE
Let’s start with a fact. We know sculpture primarily through photographic media. Flat images—mostly singular, largely static—are how we principally see three-dimensional work. Photography, born during the industrial revolution, has allowed us access to sculpture we could not possibly own, collect, or even travel to. This global compendium is truly remarkable.
3D: DEMO,DISPLAY, DOCUMENTATION
This lecture offers a critical lens on three aspects of professional practice: the making, presenting, and recording of one’s studio work. The initial section, “Demo,” focuses on the modern importance and contemporary place of the demonstration in promoting your work. The manual-oriented nature of glass and ceramics continues to fascinate the public and incites a pleasurable, kinesthetic understanding of making. Recent scholarship in “showing making” highlights the multiple functions of the demonstration from its archival nature to its participatory function.
PHENOMENOLOGY OF GLASS
The Phenomenology of Glass: Gerhard Richter’s Six Gray Mirrors.
This talk will focus on a single work by Gerhard Richter to illuminate the dynamics of the encounter in contemporary installation art. Richter’s Six Gray Mirrors (2008, DIA Collection, Beacon, NY) negotiates the two-dimensional plane, three-dimensional object, and four-dimensional time. This recent glass project will be viewed through a number of critical lenses—material, historical, biographical—and then will focus on a phenomenological reading that centers on our bodily encounter with the art object. In doing so, this talk offers a case study in how to articulate recent installation art.
SKILL AND DESKILLING:
HOW DUCHAMP INFORMS CONTEMPORARY ART
Marcel Duchamp’s work shadows every debate on skill in the current art world. His much-celebrated readymades (so called because they were “already manufactured”) forms a major part of his legacy. Yet Duchamp, at the same moment he was undermining artistic skill and technical proficiency with his readymade objects, was working on The Large Glass, a multi-year project that demanded attention to handwork. This talk explores Duchamp’s engagement with skill during the 1910s and 20s. Further, I will track his influence on post-war avant-garde practice and examine his resonance today. In particular, I will explore how Duchamp presents an intriguing, yet problematic framework for current craft and craft-based practices.
1962: ALTERNATIVE HISTORIES
The celebration surrounding the 60th anniversary of studio glass art movement highlighted the groundbreaking achievements of Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino. This talk outlines a series of alternative genesis stories for contemporary glass artists. In addition to Toledo, I will propose several other sites for glass art’s Eden: New York, Tokyo, and Los Angeles. The 1960s and 70s offer compelling antecedents for current glass practice in the investigation of surface and materiality, performance and the object.
PRACTICING FICTION: KEN PRICE AND HAPPY'S CURIOS
Ken Price, the subject of a recent retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is celebrated for his organic sculptural forms and richly colored surfaces. This talk, however, focuses on his 1978 exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, entitled Happy’s Curios. The installation, the culmination of a six-year effort, included over a dozen shrines, displays, and cabinets. Each unit contained a series of “anonymous” ceramic pieces mimicking Mexican folk pottery.“ Price’s willful appropriation of the tourist souvenir, along with his radical submergence of his own avant-garde persona (he had been a member of the prominent Ferus Gallery and a participant in the so-called “finish fetish” movement in Los Angeles), continue to challenge and confound artists and critics.
"THE NEW LOOK": DIOR, VENINI AND JOSIAH MCELHENY
McElheny’s work cannily navigates the categories of art, craft, and design. Over the course of his career, he has engaged in an ongoing conversation with modernity. The artist’s interest in, and conceptual manipulation of, critically under-represented areas of (such as fashion) is key to his achievement along with his technical abilities. This talk is a case study of ambition, specifically, the concepts and strategies that one artist used to achieve success beyond the glass community.
Prompted by the Glass Art Society’s 2016 conference in nearby Corning, I recently created a course on contemporary glass art. Over an intensive, three-week period, the students took a material traverse of recent glass practices, viewing contemporary work through a number of critical, curatorial, and historical lenses. A central component of this class was the student’s participation in the annual Glass Art Society’s conference, “Creating Context: Glass in a New Light.” This international gathering allowed students to experience first-hand professional lectures and technical demonstrations, thematic panels and special exhibitions.
The aesthetic embrace of the “low” and the critical reappraisal of kitsch have been accepted as central strategies by postmodern artists and art historians. Many contemporary sculptors working in the medium of clay have been increasingly enamored with mining the “low” culture of modern ceramics and have quoted the curio, the tourist souvenir, and the craft collectible. This talk will examine the nature of this appropriation of debased imagery, which raises questions of economic value, ceramic history, and critical distance.
THE CERAMIC OBJECT
Modernist hierarchies, ideals of originality, and notions of progress have placed craft-based practices in a marginal position within academia and the broader art world. The study of ceramics offers an opportunity to investigate, question, and challenge this received history. My talk provides a case study of teaching a history of craft and craft-based practices. In this course, students engage in a reassessment of Modernism by drawing on a range of texts both within and beyond the field of ceramics. Further, they work with a broad set of methodologies to rethink ceramic art and to create a strategic framework in which to place their own emerging practices.
Schedule A Free Consultation
I work with the members of the host institution to tailor workshops and lectures to their constituents. For example, my lecture, “The Phenomenology of Glass,” may be broadened to offer an array of critical approaches to contemporary practice—from visual description through contextual analyses, culminating in articulating the bodily encounter with the object or installation.
1. Photos By Mary McInnes, at DIA
2. Philadelphia Art Museum. http://www.philamuseum.org
3.Museum of Modern Art, NewYork. http://www.moma.org/press
4.Price, Kenneth. Ken Price: Happy's Curios. (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1979).
5.McElheny, Josiah. Josiah McElheny: A Prism. (New York: Sikora Rissoli, 2010).
6.Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY. http://www.cmog.org
7.McConnell, Walter. Walter McConnell: Itinerant Eden, A Theory of Everything (Sedalia, MO: Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008).
8. Koplos, Janet, Betty Woodman. New York, N.Y.: Monacelli Press, 2006.
9. Ashley Lyon, Untitled black and white images. https://www.ashleylyon.com/?page_id=349 (accessed August 5, 2017)