Thursday, November 1, 2012

Breaking the Mold: Porcelain Works from Meissen

Nature Morte is hosting a solo of new works by Arlene Shechet, the renowned American sculptor, at its Berlin venue.  Here are highlights of the artist’s work processes and his new series:

Trained as a sculptor, the New-York based practitioner has a long history of working with glazed and fired ceramics, a central element in her practice being the production methods and transformations involved in the process of making.

Simultaneously comical and sad, beautiful and ugly, her enigmatic, amorphous sculptures are aware of the history of classical ceramic art but break with its traditions by constantly reinventing form, the use of materials and modes of display. Continuing her interest in playing with forms of presentation and incorporating items that relate to the production of her works into their display, the artist is going to employ furniture and packing elements found at the Meissen factory itself as the foundation for the gallery's installation.

As part of the Meissen Art Campus, an artist in residency program run by the Meissen porcelain manufacturer, she has produced a series of new works, exploring the forms, production methods and traditions of the 300 year old manufacturer. The work she produced during this time celebrates and subverts the language and craftsmanship of the most famous porcelain manufacturer in the world. Infiltrating every corner of the factory, Shechet was particularly fascinated by the overlooked and disregarded materials and objects she found and produced a series of works which she refers to as the ‘molds of molds’.

Having discovered the often 300 year old original Meissen molds, she made casts to reproduce them in porcelain, then glazed and hand-painted them, thereby transforming these devices (that usually remain hidden) into objects of desire. Another series of sculptures explore the traditions of the figurine, which historically is the only in-house product termed art by Meissen.

She used sections of the classical figurines and combined them with elements of tableware, creating intentionally awkward and precariously elegant constellations, which adhere to a discourse of functionality and aesthetics. In a similar manner she played with the finish of her sculptures, leaving a lot of the porcelain unglazed and in its raw state after firing, at other times hand-painting and gilding parts which normally would be purely functional.

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