Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Evergreen:Vespiary by Zimany & Bare

The installation by Daniel Bare and Valerie Zimany is composed of forms which are given volume by a skeleton of mesh chicken wire before being covered in slip coated items attached to the gallery walls via wire support. The materials are gathered from rejected donations to goodwill, items that were donated and then never resold that are destined to the landfill. Much of the meaning is derived from the discarded objects many of which have been in close contact to a person - bed sheets, bath mats, stuffed animals, lingerie, belts, shoes, pillows, blankets, lace, and crochet. Another layer of meaning is in the clay itself - clay is often used in landfills to coat items and provide a stabilizer aiding in the compression and decomposition of material. Any color that is viewed within the installation is "ghosting" from the item, as the kaolin based slip is an off-white. Kaolin clay is prized for its natural whiteness and is a major component of porcelain ware. Zimany and Bare do not fire the slip so it remains a clay rather than a ceramic. Having had the opportunity to assist in the instillation I was able to learn that the deflocculating of slip - the process of increasing slip fluidity or flow is reversible. To flocculate the slip Daniel Bare uses a mixture of diluted Epsom Salt which is made by combining the Epsom salt into boiling water until the solution is saturated - that is the salt crystals no longer evaporate. For a 5 gallon bucket approximately 4 ounces of flocculent are used to achieve a oatmeal consistency - 6 ounces will create a thicker cream cheese consistency. Both mixtures are used within this instillation.
I find that formally I appreciate the work very much and I greatly enjoyed being privy to its construction. Conceptually I felt that this work was somewhat weaker than the re-appropriation of material that Henrique Oliveira used for his installation last year. Valerie mentioned that the structure was based upon the idea of mud daubers and hornets nests which is an allusion to the moniker of Charlotte during the revolutionary war. An idea that is outdated and not representative of the current cultural state of affairs as budget cuts, tax hikes, and political debauchery have exposed the corrupt and backwards movements of a once progressive "new" south.
Both artists also present more traditional sculptural forms and methods as pedestal or wall pieces. Bare offers a selection of repurposed ceramic tableware (teacups, saucers, teapots, and coffee mugs) which are arranged and coated in a binding glaze before being reintroduced into a kiln which will activate the glaze and "melt" the items together. While this method has become part of the ceramic zeitgeist I find it shallow and technically lazy. Zimany is the strong suit of the pair her forms are self crafted, and her decals are self created. She also taps into the cultural fascination of the exotic particularly that of manga and hentai. By exposing the adolescent fascination with sexuality - she gives the female figures she depicts a modicum of power - though how the character will wield that power is purposefully ambiguous. Ceramic representations are immobile -- capturing a single moment in time - this has been part of their role in the commemorative market but it also belies their role in appetite, as the vehicle for that which we consume.

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