Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee: Porcelain Old as Tomorrow: Weiser, Isupov, MacDowell, Boyle, Antemann

[Greg Weiser, Idle Hands, c. 2005]

[Greg Weiser, Many, 2005]

[Sergei Isupov]

[Kate MacDowell]

[Shary Boyle; Lobster is uncertain, but believes this and the next are from Lace Figures exhibition, 2006]

[Shary Boyle]

[Chris Antemann, Highboy, from "Battle of the Britches," 2009]

[Chris Antemann]
[All images copyrighted by the respective artists, and displayed here solely for purposes of commentary; please respect the artists' rights.]

Porcelain as an art form appears to be making something of a comeback in the U.S.A. (Perhaps related to the resurgence of China?) Several artists are creating work as technically adept and aesthetically captivating as anything produced by Meissen, Sevres and the other 18th/19th-century European masterworkers...and arguably on par with the imperial Chinese themselves.

Among the "New Masters": Sergei Isupov, Kate MacDowell, Kurt Weiser, Shary Boyle, and Chris Antemann. Sharing a dedication to craftsmanship, each of the five has a distinctive style...and each is distinctively modern in their themes, ironic senses of humor, and use of the medium for social commentary. We get the best of all worlds, i.e., a classic medium updated to meet our current concerns.

Here at Lobster & Canary we raved (November 21, 2010) about Isupov's current show at the Barry Friedman Gallery in NYC, and we had the great pleasure of interviewing MacDowell (September 19, 2009) as well as noting that her work featured prominently in the NY Times (January 30, 2010). Please go to those Lobster entries for more, and for links to the artists' work (and their gallery representation).

Weiser is a master potter, and possibly the most traditional in his themes and style. He does not experiment much with the form of the objects, but uses the teapot, the globe, etc. to paint lush scenes that appear didactic without the lesson being immediately clear. Another twist: his style and use of color reminds me of Baroque Spanish and Italian still life (bodegones) painters such as Zurbaran and Garzoni, a tradition that pre-dates European porcelain production. For more on Weiser, click here and here.

Boyle is a multimedia artist who uses the porcelain not as a canvas but as sculpture. Her figurines and tableaus make powerful statements about voice and identity. But she too is interrogating the past, for instance, in recent work responding to Foggini bronzes as part of a commission from the Art Gallery of Ontario. For more on Boyle, click here.

Antemann takes Meissenware to its licentious, decadent extreme...her set-pieces lure in the viewer, who thinks the scene is a reproduction, until close examination reveals otherwise. Her puckish sense of humor prevails: these are delightfully devious works that enthrall in every sense of the word. For more on Antemann, click here.

For years I have enjoyed the solitude of porcelain galleries at the Museum fuer Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and at the Metropolitan in NYC. I wonder if I will soon get company!

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