Tag Archives: collaboration

Ceramics as Theater and the Necessity of Video

Either by question or comment, people are often curious about the blending of ceramic and video that is at the heart of the Foxy-Wolff collaboration.  Partly, it is a simple matter of blending Gabe’s and my skill sets, this is just what would naturally come about from a collaboration of a  ceramist and a film maker, but after reading a wonderful essay in Ceramics Art and Perception (issue 92) titled “Is Ceramics a Genre in Theater”, I am compelled to think more deeply.

In the article, the author, Orly Nezer points to a definition of minimalist art that came out of the 1960’s.  Theorist Michael Fried identifies minimalist art as “neither paintings nor sculpture, but rather a situation that takes into account the actions of its manufacture, the activities that have preceded it and to great extent, the presence of the spectator”.  The author goes on to develop a thesis based on this quote that put the viewer in the center of a work of art for the context that is given through that act, and another from Eric Bentley on the nature of theater, “A impersonates to B while C is watching”  This quote establishes the necessity of time in the idea.  So we are left with an audience and a measured time of action.

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Orly then identifies several ceramic installations that meet this criteria.  My favorite is Titled “Signs and Wonders” by Edmund de Waal, it was installed in the Victoria and Albert Museum  in 2009.  For tis installation, de Waal honors the ceramic collection of the V&A through recreating them in porcelain from memory.  The works were then placed on a circular aluminum shelf suspended high above the gallery floor.  This placement distorts and blurs the work for the viewer.  Orly claims that this placement requires the imagination of the viewer to complete the work.

In each of the works discussed, the audience must participate, and that participation can only occur while in contact with the work.  From this keen observation, Orly goes on to include functional pots into this definition, because their use gives them context and meaning and their value is in a collection of gestures that goes into their making.  A pitcher is not really a pitcher until its poured.

So then how does this pertain to Foxy-Wolff and our toys and videos?  I think it’s an easy jump to view the handmade toys and houses as functional objects that are not really complete until they are played with.  It’s true that ceramic is an absurd material for toys but that is, in a way, the point. We act out these strange adult scenarios with toys too fragile for a child.  The play is closely regulated with firm rules so that the video has the look and feel that we need, but none of it has any meaning until they are watched.

It is true that the recording of the play removes the necessity of the ephemeral, but perhaps this is not the play of the script that is really being recorded.  I begin to wonder if the play that we are really interested in is the continuous dialog of the collaboration itself.  Sometimes light and funny and at times a battle with immovable opinions, but always compelling as we continually push for more and more from the work and each other.  Maybe that question; why ceramic and video? is at the heart of the entire project. Though for me at least, its one that I don’t really need to answer.

Graffiti Pots

One of my favorite aspects of the work of Foxy-Wolff is the way that the large project can contain so many splinters and still remain whole.  The intent, scope and heart of all the projects lead to the interior of the next project and are connected back to projects that are many years past, even before the beginning of our collaboration. The graffiti pots are especially one of these projects.  Gabe and I began working together rather later in our artistic lives.  For myself, I was focused on ceramic entirely.  Especially working as a studio potter and sometime sculptor for almost 20 years prior to Foxy-Wolff.  For Gabe about the same number of years have been given to the study of drawing and painting.  Within those time spans we each developed interests.  For me, the history of human culture through clay sculpture and pottery, for Gabe, Graffiti and street art have been important influences.  For this group of vases we unite those years of experience and differing interests into a unified group of pots that are setting the tone for the work we intend to make for the next year at least.IMG_4614I threw the pots off the hump with the clay that we made this winter.  The influence for the form comes from the arts and crafts movement.  Not that these pots are intended to copy work from the period, but their forms and handle attachments reflect fashionable conventions from the time.   This period has had the strongest influence over my sense of beauty in thrown forms and they are shapes I make often.

once the pots were trimmed, handled and bisqued, they were ready for surface treatment and their first firing.  The first step in this process is to spray paint the surface of the work.  We use a lead free industrial grade aerosol primer for this.

After the paint dries the pots are glazed.  The paint acts as a resist and an uneven glaze surface over the paint is encouraged.IMG_4593

IMG_4592Following the glaze application the pots are ready for firing

While I was focused on design and execution of the pots, Gabe was working on the tags for the decals.  Concerning the work Gabe said “I want the work to look as if it was taken from the unknown origins collection in a Museum and used like a wall is used by a graffiti artist”.    Here is a group of photos that reveal his process in designing1324Once a design is ready on paper it can be moved to the computer for extensive preparation in photoshop for becoming a decal.  These were printed by the sheet and then cut out.  Gabe chose a repeating order for all the pots.  Even though some of the small pieces could only hold 3 of the tags, the order was held throughout the decaling process to prevent overuse of an image56Once the pots were fired, they were ready to receive their decals

IMG_47798Decaled, they were ready for their third firing to set the decals into the glaze.910The completed pots exceeded our expectations and have set the tone for future work.  These are for sale through the studio, reach us through our “About” page.cropped-graffiti-pots1-copy-21.jpg

Collaboration is King

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Sometimes great art depends on great partnerships. Gabe Wolff pushed this project into the realm of greatness today with his design and build of the internal skeleton of the life size free standing horse we are building in the coral outside our studio.  In my mind I imagined some lashed together twig construction as I have very little wood working skill and was thinking that the clay would provide most of the structure of the piece.  Realizing I was out of my depth with the project I asked for help.  The best move all day for sure.  Gabe spent most of the morning designing and then piecing the structure together and all of the afternoon on the build.

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Here he is testing the designs ability to bear weight.  This is half of the structure.  The other half is mostly built and will be tied together tomorrow and then I will use my twig idea to build a rib cage and hips to hold the volume of the body, it will then be covered in chicken wire and then covered with the brick clay.

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The play set also got some play.  I am leaning toward an insurance agency play set.  It seems the most absurd choice.