After Garth Clark

The Garth Clark Gallery in New York has now been closed for four years. The chief protagonists, Clark and Del Vecchio, moved to Santa Fe so as to escape ‘a city that is hard-wired’ and start again. They are now pioneering, in partnership with an established auction house in Chicago – Cowans, auctions of contemporary ceramics in the USA, handling anything from Koons to Woodman to Coper. It’s already proving pretty successful.

But what about New York? What’s happening for ceramics now that the sole, up-market specialty gallery has disappeared from that firmament on 57th Street? Before Clark and Del Vecchio left for Indian country, they found new galleries for all their stable of artists – ‘at least those who wanted another gallery in New York’ (Ha!). Some moved to long-established white cube structures in Soho or the Upper East Side while others took a punt with new galleries forming in recently, or barely, gentrified parts of Manhattan. The Bowery, former repository for doss-houses, the destitute and the indigent is now blossoming, so one learns, into renewal of an edgy sort and experimental galleries are one sign of this change in residents.

Salon 94 at 243 Bowery is one of the most celebrated and this space has taken on a number of established ceramists of note – Ron Nagle, Betty Woodman and Andrew Lord – in addition to attracting some new artists working in ceramic like Raphael de Villiers of France (graduate of the 2008 European ceramic Symposium in Gmunden and interlocutor for last year), virtuoso Americans such as Arlene Schechet and then there is our own Francis Uprichard – veteran of Venice. There are heavyweights from German art star, Rosemary Trockell to Dutch design hotshot, Hella Jongerius.

While all shows are not ceramic – as for most white spaces these days as the specialty space days seem over, for now anyway – the current show, Paul Clay (Paul Klee – geddit?)  is a show of ceramics made by an international array of contemporary artists including some specialising in ceramic. Most of it seems informed by current art concerns rather than been drawn from ceramics ranks and issues.

To New Zealand eyes, used to the predictable and the expected which makes up much of our fare, there are some curiousnesses – from many of the forms through to the display which as far as one can tell takes on a theatrical model where some works are displayed by artist but others get mixed up in a stagey manner that suggests deliberate set-ups to animate spaces between or permit one work to activate the next. While never allowing the eye to rest. Shelves that might neatly hold reiterations of a theme by a single artist become stanzas of theatrical performance crowd scenes where one jostles the next and insists we notice its incidents…and there are many. From almost smothered forms intumescing and bubbling up through an outer crackling layer to Woodman’s familiar flat slab shapes of pots with jars behind (around since the ‘90s) wrapped now in Indian cotton; from Nagle’s austere pink (how can you be both austere AND pink?) Tracey’s Tab that hovers stiffly just off the shelf surface while holding its sexy dribble of a crusty tab barely in place to what might just be an orgy on a couch; from the trompe l’oeil of an oversize plaited leather belt with silver fastenings to harlequins, what appear to be body parts and Shechet’s shiny, slimy Slick Drip – an about-to-land animated lump of what could be nasal discharge.

This would never have happened at Garth Clark’s!

With nearly 50 artists it is a show of substance and scale. Here are some images. If these intrigue – go to the gallery site for more.

Arlene Shechet

Frances Upritchard

Takuro Kuwata

Betty Woodman


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