The third act of the Edmund de Waal saga is below. Roberta Smith’s review of his show at Gagosian….
Edmund de Waal: ‘ATEMWENDE’ at Gagosian Gallery. By Roberta Smith. NYT
If you like the work of Robert Ryman, Ken Price, CyTwombly, Giorgio Morandi, Donald Judd, and Damien Hirst, among others, the New York debut of Edmund de Waal may appeal. Mr de Waal is best known for his poignant, beautifully written if sometimes overly precious, family memoir, “The Hare With Amber Eyes”. He also has a deep training in and love for the art, craft, and history of ceramics that, over the last two decades or so, has been overtaken by the ambition to be an installation artist. He is now becoming known for a series of sleek shallow shelving units – large or small, black or white – arrayed irregularly with anywhere from 6 to 500 small delicate cylindrical porcelain vessels, also black or white.
It is an instructive pleasure to study the range of shapes and especially surfaces of the black porcelains: Matte, Shiny, pocked, striated, smooth, flecked with gold and sometimes accented with a pale rim. The same is true of the subtle contrasts of white, cream and pale celadon glazes that give a suite of four large white pieces slightly different tonalities, depending on which glaze is dominant and the quantity of light coming through the gallery’s skylights. These works also resemble ultrarefined versions of the shelves of finished product in a ceramics studio, or the scores of glaze samples that potters often accrue. Time spent with Mr de Waals work can teach a lot about the nuances of ceramics, but his work is ostentatiously precious and ultimately naïve. It forces a pastiche of received art ideas through the sieve of a different medium, gaining a physical distinctiveness, but little more. Too bad he found ceramics itself so deficient.