Studio Talk; Alan Graham-Collier
Alan Graham Collier assistant professor of art history the University of Connecticut who is originally scheduled to join us this evening was called out of town so that we have the opportunity to talk about the rather controversial exhibition of pop pottery at the museum at the Society of Arts and Crafts downtown and we had Ben Watkins here to explain what is going on with pop pottery on the panel this evening are Aaron involve assistant professor Masterson's College of Art.
Bruce Brackenridge ceramics instructor Brooklyn Museum School.
Ken flater instructor of art college Ben Watkins a number of people seem to be a little disturbed about the exhibition that is currently being shown at this society. They seem to be disturbed about two things. One kind of changing the idea of what crowds really are and to the fact that somehow or rather the the pop art that is being presented in ceramics seems to be less of an art than the art which they find in the museums. For instance the real papar Which question would you like to deal with.
Well since I think the first question will be the heart of our discussion here I'll take the second one first.
I don't know your sources for these objections. I said I suspect probably that the people who object to the pope's Ceramics which I think is a misnomer actually.
Are not people who think that the ceramics are in in any way inferior to the pop art which they except possibly because it's shown in museums.
But I think they're probably the same people who object to pop art itself.
The objection that I heard in I have heard in that particular area Ben been on the on the level that somehow or rather the it doesn't have the the humor or the guts that the pop art itself really has.
Well I say we will probably have to tackle the problem somewhere anyway so I think now's as good a place for instance for instance it's so nicely done.
So many of the things are so nicely done.
The pop art. No I think it actually is much better done in ceramics generally.
The one with outstanding things to me to my mind about the pop artist is their technical dexterity and they're concerned with take a specific instance where a Lichtenstein's somewhat related recent exhibition of ceramics at Kostelec gallery in New York and one of the really astonishing things about the exhibit was Lichtenstein's command of the ceramic medium which of course he got through working with a master craftsman. But the Lichtenstein's ceramics were probably far and away within their limited technical range that he was working much more neatly. Perfectly finished pieces in most of the work at the society itself. I don't think there's necessarily a comment on that. No one is better than the other.
But I think this is a key perhaps the reason why the ceramics that the society is sharing right now are probably improperly termed pop ceramics because the really the behind Lichtenstein's attempt to achieve this this impenetrable immaculate finish on the piece is a desire for a neutral and imagery is possible. And so I'm a bit bemused by people's finding pop art a and intensely humorous art. I think this this may be probably the arch misconception of the current rise of six craftsmen seemed to be following in the footsteps of the pop artists instead of creating their own movement well and creating their own ideas I think that the six Ramesses work separately the among the range of influences that you can possibly trace to each one of them I would include probably the ceramic sculpture of Southern California seen the bay or a figurative painting school. Certain other movements in modern sculpture like Paul Harris's work. Almost anything except pop art. I don't I don't know exactly where the tie in with Pop comes the even the pieces which are most immediately pointed at with the are immediately labeled with the pop term are the portrait shoes there which are probably the most traditional pieces in the exhibition which are attempts to arrive at a to a form of portraiture through depiction of physical particularity. They are portraits of individuals in the same way that.
Rodin's or velázquez portraits are individual portrait even though we don't know the people we recognize them individuals. I don't think people are used to looking at ceramic shoes in exactly these terms but I would say that these are the terms on which to look at them rather than as the generic essentially neutral imagery that the pop artists use the same type of argument being made for the pastry shop for the hamburger or for any of the traditional things that could be found in a traditional still life painting for instance to find bread and meat in its still life painting is not unusual.
Well again I think I think we're not in a position for the rigors of a very good art historical discussion so I think you have to stick with particulars. If you mean when you boast pastry shop pop paintings. I don't think Tebow is in the mainstream of pop art at all. I think he is in a he is a much more traditional painter and. Well Bruce is more familiar with Wayne to work actually. I think he could give us some idea about his thinking about this.
Well I agree with you in terms of the pop thing. You know I think Pop is a very hard kind of thing.
I actually used to really really. Well you might know I you know I don't find this in the ceramics at all. I think there's a connection with pop as there is a connection with anything you know. Alloway explains that as we all went to the same movies you know we're all the same age basically WARL happens to be a little older than most of us who are working this way but. And some of them are are much younger. You know Sam Shaw for example was in his early 20s. But Melchor is in his middle 30s. But you know he's greatly turned on by Gene Autry and some of the very same sorts of signs and symbols that that somebody like Boral is.
But I think that pop why aren't they being turned down by something just a little different. Well I think the difference is that they're not they're not being turned on in the same way.
They're not using the imagery in in the vernacular that the pop artists have established Warhols use of of film imagery or Lichtenstein's use of. Now it's even gotten to abstract expressionism as an image of popular culture which Liechtenstein depicts in his pop art paintings. The difference from pop art painters use of subject matter is what makes them pop painters they are striving for a certain presentation of subject matter which is their way of presenting it is what it is is what is unique to their style and that that way is not the way things are being done.
Shaw presents cows because he likes cows. He would present Mickey Mouse if he liked Mickey Mouse in exactly the same way it has. It doesn't have. It's a very positive impetus.
It's a direct.
Turning on towards this type of image and in a much more unsophisticated way than then Lichtenstein's use of Mickey Mouse would be a Mickey Mouse for Lichtenstein would be stripped in the same way that the Steve Canyon comic strips were stripped of their literary associations their their capacity to convey a message. And this is this is probably the Graysmith I think the greatest misconception that took place around a pop artist is that Roy Lichtenstein is saying something about the content of Steve King comic strips that you can't see in his way of presenting it how this is how this is any way this is born out. And you see it more specifically in his ceramics where what he's trying to do is draw a wall actually a an impenetrable wall between you and your associations with that subject matter. And what most of this Mr. involved in is enlarging the range of your associations with the ideas of cows or overstuffed furniture or shoes or something like this which is almost the polar opposite to my mind.
Pop artists are attempting so you find you find little or no connection between these six or Amos's then and hotbar and the connection that they like Bruce said. The connection is that they live in the same culture they're exposed and they are open sensitive people to you. And I think Gene Autry particularly at the Elizabeth Taylor movies why is the imagery so closely connected. Because I think this is this is the dominant energy in imagery of our culture to a great extent the OK even culture of men and there are thousands and thousands and thousands of things that you can look at and be influenced by. Now you say there's no connection but here you have a situation where I think this was a very real connection the connection is that they're looking at the same material.
Well then I'll confess to what I just said because I think the word common is a very important word here. You know why not it's dominant. Well I mean it's and it's turning on a lot of people. You know it's the same thing as what's happening in in the new painting is that pop culture and pop culture have turned on a lot of young people now into a wholly different thing than either OP or palm but they're still using the kind of color like liquid techs came onto the scene. And it enabled somebody to use these kinds of colors. And immediately you look at when this stuff started to come out originally. You look at this in terms of some kind of color race kind of things like the show we saw today which is supposed to be a color painting but the same thing is happening in New York. What you will see in new sculpture which was in the world house show for example of new sculpture using the same kinds of techniques that that these services are using silkscreen plastics and any number of new materials or materials at least that are new in terms of some of the things that are being done kind of construction things like Kalmbach does for example. Once again using combinations of things in terms of materials that have been used in the in the so-called pop coming out of the so-called pop kind of culture.
And I think that this is a you know this is a very definite connection between what what's happening. That's like a lot of people see it you know a lot of people are involved with it.
Why is it that these six Americans just don't seem to be developing their their own specialized view of it more. Well this is what I think. I think this is this is what is happening.
I go back and contest the idea that they take even the same imagery that the pop artists take the all the reviews that have appeared in town. I have one here Potters and pump six artists on a hot trail. In other words these these guys are following in the ball bearing grooved path of Andy Warhol and all this is this isn't the case.
The pieces in the show the cows.
The nude figures in the overstuffed furniture of Shaw I think even in terms of their generic content have no relation to what the words to these are. They are essentially uninvolved with any sort of literary associations.
They are among the most classic of the sort of content that a painter or a sculptor might use and then they're handled in a way that is relatively unassociated with most modernist movement except in terms in terms of the medium itself in terms of the handling of ceramics in attitude can they be related to the think you are painting a group of the West Coast.
Oh very yes very well the the the figures of the chairs and couches are straight out of the park. Elmer Biche often Dick even corn. It's so close. It's a three dimensional version of what went on with this heavy kind of paint.
Bruce my question again is why isn't the imagery more personal lives. You see I would agree with you but somehow or other they seem to be just a little back from you know in terms of the quality or the directness of the statement.
They seem the same people well I think Ben's been arguing that it isn't you know and I and I would you know and I must say I tend to agree with him because if you if you get down to specifics enough we go through for example the six people that are involved in this thing. Let's take a call. Bach for example Bach makes Hardage shapes which are sort of convoluted forms are there in some respect they're a little bit related to kind of an art nouveau thing because they have that kind of loop. But in another respect no not at all. He's very much associated with new sculpture in that case painting in that case I would have to say that he has developed his own imagery.
Well I don't know because I'm working with a group of people who most of you people don't know who are my age or less in New York who are involved in this thing and most of them have not been shown like salad it for example who's a very good example of this who who will probably who has been shown at the Graham gallery in group shows Irwin Fleming and Tom Doyle will have some new pieces at the Dujuan gallery. Some other people like this. This world how a show of new school a new sculpture.
We're talking about this. That's a lot of these places and all.
But I was going to say that's a whole lot of people so you could say and this is like at the moment an underground movement. Now this is going to hit the scene and I think it's going to hit the scene pretty fast. And I think it's going to make a rather large splash then you're going to say well how come Kalmbach didn't develop his own imagery. He's a long way away from this.
He's 3000 miles away from it and he doesn't know any one of these people because almost as closely related this is is that Colton box working in a medium in a particular technique and the ceramic medium and his slip casting were in a lot of people for years and years in a. Community center. So like pottery classes have made bookends from slip casting and the forms are essentially slick finished hard edge pieces in a book and brings to mind another of his concerns which is an interest in the stance of a piece most of his pieces sit off the edge of the table or off the edge of a sculpture stand. This is something that not most most sculpture like arises from a plant form and goes up his things go off the edge of the platform. This is something particular in him most of the others have have. Again you have to look back at something that was said earlier. Most of these people are very young some of these pieces are student pieces that really should be should you be showing student pieces as well if if the student pieces exhibit a confidence and an interest. And so it certainly seemed to have then.
And then I have that and then I have the right to view it as a permanent work before you are presenting for me to look at.
That's right. That's right. That's the first That's the first thing you look at is a sense that we're interested in.
No I'm not making I'm not making an excuse for the fact that these were made of student pieces because they in most cases the student work is as far removed from the instructor's work as well because it goes back generations back to the so in California it sounds like show is like this for example like Ken price shows at the pace gallery and in New York the Ferris gallery in Los Angeles basically can considers this stuff sculpture.
So the association with crafts for him is a kind of a traditional thing which is a hang up for a lot of people and that is that crafts means something else and fine arts means something else. I think that that a show like this tends to show that the so-called craftsmen or other so-called crafts position is not very much different from from what's going on in the Fine Arts. Hopefully it's very close.
I would love to question just one that we discussed for about seven minutes the ball considering the communicator values constantly communication. And I had a brief time to look at the booklet and it says ceramics by six. And then we discussed just following your piece about sculpture or sculpture and ceramics that one fellow has feels there's a little do we about ceramics or crafts and you just want to be attached to this. My only interest is that that these are obvious attempt to communicate with ceramics. I mean broadly speaking without getting involved philosophically there's a communication. My only question is now where does functionalism come in here. In other words towards ceramics I wouldn't want to go back to a time honored view but that is ceramics and was a functional piece. However if so if we were to strip and cross this border line from which is one of the last few shredded ceramic sculpture then I assume these pieces are non-functional.
Well but that's not part of that was that's part not part of it.
Well that was the reason I think the only kind that probably confusion involves is an inability to distinguish between terms pottery and ceramics pottery is at least nominally functional and ceramics is a medium that you do like I say or whatever you want to end it and most of these things are sculpture of some involve the idea of ceramics as a medium for pottery. They're not they don't exploit this idea. Why don't we do a functional problem. Well I don't think it's you know it doesn't make any difference. Colin pottery if you want to.
But the problem is the individual pieces of work and I go back to the very beginning of the conversation I think the burden of proof is on the people who attempt to relegate this work to a one category or another of either pottery or sculpture or art or pop art or something like this you have to show how this fits with your definition of those things because they're being presented here in what I attempted as the most neutral.
Presentation. They are ceramics by six their works that are done in a medium by six different people and somebody comes in and says they're pop art. The burden of proof is on him. Why do you think that these that take one particular example is the work that this is pop art. What is your idea of what the pop artists are involved in with which these people are in accord.
I suppose the only reason seems to comes up to me without me being the one picking that Mary that would be that they have an obvious link and the most obvious or very obvious attempt to be vain that is or to be to communicate a very contemporary aspect by using signs and symbols things that are hinged to us because we're not extraordinarily contemporary or ubiquitous features of the landscape.
They had moments.
They are two people in the art world. Cow is a kind of VENO idea. One would think of Sunday painter as in relation to them.
And so in a roundabout way they are Bhain idea seems that these when the count you on a particular aspect of the type of cow that is used for advertising milk products for instance then then I think that you can make a rather simple minded connection immediately to the pop art Sonia with these cows particularly do that for you.
Well no I don't think of them in terms of Daisy the Borden cow or any other or any other kind. Is it Elsie. I suppose it's Elsie. There's also a male bull involved there too. I don't know his there now it just seems to me that the cow in the field the type of landscape is is a an amateur show are. What kind of landscape bucolic them you know cholic idea that harks back to the kind of painting that you may have found in the phantom a school which I suppose fell into disrepute a long long time ago. And I think that if people in the field have knowledge of this and other words I think that a lot of pop art requires your ability to associate the work of art with some other idea literary or otherwise for example the comic strip well.
If you don't know who Little Abner is or who Dagwood is than many of the images on this Vai's don't mean anything to you.
But if you do know who they are you bring along a whole lot of baggage to apply to the Vespas to a great many more people have much less specific idea of what a character is than they have what Laughner is it's it's almost impossible.
Yes well that's what I would say.
I would say that probably the cow is a sort of in joke.
Well what's the joke.
Well I was say that the artist in other words in other words it's ceramics for artists or for people in the field or what you want to relate it to camp. You have to be in on the idea or in order to fully appreciate what the artist is getting at. Granted the person off the street can come in and look at this and probably get something from it. But I think that it is like a good deal of art today directed to an in-group isn't it.
Well David Smith's stainless steel sculptures aren't they. Oh no no. You mean the guy coming off the street is coming into this with.
I think that this man is dealing more with informal dealing more with form than Then these.
In other words in other words his statements deal more with form and less with an associate of ideas.
Take a look at that part. If that doesn't deal with form what does it deal with.
This is what the deal is primarily it deals primarily with the with the imagery which has been painted on the wall. No this is this is just another aspect of the form.
If that isn't a you know that wasn't a fine great form it was you know it was for us when we studied Chinese art history.
Yes. But but but the form of a Chinese vase was particularly pertinent to the Chinese society from which it came.
No this isn't particularly pertinent to the Chinese Potter who made it the Chinese society very likely saw very well.
All right. I agree with you. The pottery and probably to the aristocrats who employed him. No. OK. Hopefully.
And so here we have sermon's our partner using a past form from way back.
And I kind of I get a chuckle out of it because I can remember seeing on some of the Chinese pots that I have seen the figures painted on Chinese figures in Chinese landscape. And here we have the Chinese vase and a whole bunch of comic strip people painted in a rather similar way of recession through planes you know. So it's like it's like a it's like a punch. You have a stack of them back. Yeah exactly.
It's a visual pun but I don't think that the pun would come off as someone who didn't know a little bit about Chinese faces.
Well I was I would say it will come off in a particular way for somebody who does know that this is a replica pitching Dynasty vase.
It will also come off for somebody who doesn't know it that way because it's been my experience in seeing people approach these things that these shapes have a tremendous impact on what I assume in the high percentage of the people who walk along Newbury Street or people who haven't the foggiest idea what to do with this thing art historically speaking is no the. And I think both of these things were in the mind of this artist when he had this piece in mind. He took he took a replica of an historical piece he took a mode of presentation the comic strip business to present figures from popular culture. You combine these things for a specific effect for a specific type of communication of a of a number of ideas that he has ideas involving the degradation of the work of art itself in contemporary society involving the breakdown of communications with of individuals one and the other involving certain ideas he has about interracial love involved a bunch of other hang ups that the artist is a very good question who exactly say that the button is being pressed by somebody and you're pressing this as to whether this is art or not art.
However it seems to me that the large amount of the greater number of audience this never becomes apparent. It's a very sophisticated idea to press that button with a cow and a landscape on its side you're pressing on a very sensitive kind of button on a very sensitive kind of person a person with experience that may vary in greater numbers or in small in other words you're not dealing with a large majority that's successful button pressing occurs only in somebody.
No I really really what you generally mean I'm not sure I'm not sure whether that's a discussion or an objection but I don't think you sort of look at it in much much of the art today as it is I was painting for ideas.
You know it was just that when we were going back when you were mentioning about the communication broadly speaking we're speaking here and if we could break it into the fact that sophisticatedly speaking you know someone who does this artist says that this artist has the idea that what he wants to do at this particular point in this work is something he can communicate in this way.
These are these are things that he has at his disposal the ability to create a form like this.
And the ideas that he presents on it. And it's there for the people who can pick up on it. Right. And then they're not extraordinarily esoteric ideas. Most of them are brought up actually. I don't know the limitations of what you're allowed on the air here.
Some of them were very broad. Know but it seemed to come back to the circle when you just suddenly David Smith came up broad. Now what do we mean by broad and how does David Smith fall into this. I mean I think the the wits that you allow this person to occupy. Can you expand with David Smith or go narrative and do things end or become narrower and narrower as with the ceramics or broader depending on how we've discussed and come up with a solution here and words some so or either field this is narrow and or broad. DAVID SMITH My purse is a very broad.
But I mean is this idea of broader natural mode of communication has something to do with why these things are so immediately labeled pop ceramics because this is now broidery communications is a way that people can easily see them there.
Unfortunately it's hard to see that because to begin with you have to have some idea of what the pop art is about which very few people do. And then you have to be able to relate that to these things. The poppers themselves I think would be amused at these things because these ceramics called pop art. And what you're really involved in here is a problem of intention which is gets to be a complex form of response you're involved in what the intentions of these people are in relation to what the intentions of the pop artists are and then there are just miles apart and all you have to you can only deal with this sort of reportorial fact.
Well what why why are they some day miles apart. You say that they are miles apart.
And why or why are they connected.
In which what area are they connected in. Not not in a very general sense because you can't speak meaningfully I don't think yet of pop art in a general sense of which specific pop artists things you find presented and in which specific in their comic strips on this. Know their comic strips present and Roy Lichtenstein What is the relation between these two presentations that you know.
Well I think that the relation is generally in the use of of certain.
Social or social documents if you want to call a comic strip a kind of social document a reflection of the American an aspect of the American society.
They may not use the same comic strips but suddenly they find in this material some some quality whereby it reflects either their ideas about something or are just a news source.
But your definition is broad enough to allow the creators Steve Canyon to be a pop artist because he finds certain things and that is applicable to all of us.
So you see Steve I wouldn't consider Steve Canyon a pop artist because he knew how to put this.
It seems to me that the pop artist has to use the material outside of its original original intent and says the difference between this work and the way the pop artists use it is the difference between what his ideas are idea is in using the comic strip on the vases and Lichtenstein's idea intention in using the comic strips in his paintings which I don't see any relation between Lichtenstein is trying to take his paint is trying to strip his paintings of the associational value that are found in the comic strip. The origin of the subject matter because he's using these things to communicate to you certain of the ideas that are found in the comic strips.
Well I think that there I think that their relationship lies in the fact that they are using as a source material a particular phenomena within American society which is the comic strip not of the fact that the fact that you might use it in a more formal way.
You say he tries to strip it of associations and that from guess does not necessarily try to strip it of associations.
You can see just the idea of using the Steve Canyon comic strip allows of you know in minus one possibilities of ways of using it it is the way that this subject matter is used just like to go back to the couch. It can be calendar art. It can be a Rembrandt or a camera can be. Richard Shaw a piece of ceramics. It's the way that the camera was used and just the idea of somebody using shows or using the cab doesn't mean that he's he's a Dutch realist.
It seems to me that in the style that many of these things are presented in feel they they feel very happy which I think would be another way of relating it.
Now we have we have the subject matter where the subject matter is similar similar stimulus. And then when then we move on and we will find it in the feel of it the look of it.
Well I don't find the feel of it which is what we're arguing because you have to take it to the ladies and chairs you know like what if you only showed the ladies in the chairs or what if I only show them box hardest things are the shoes. Well there isn't any different among these different people as it is of our person.
So when we're talking about the ladies in the chair that we have we have a different stimulus. But the thing that that that surprises me is there were other works of art or the major seemed to be the stimulus rather than things which are fun generally and uniquely by a person that's not surprising though.
Well but boy is it not surprising. I mean why is it that sadly isn't the way we all work now.
That's our big hang up now.
I mean of course we're stimulated by the works of our good God. We go to Tuscany and we look at trees and we see the trees look like Tuscan paintings you know I mean they don't even look like trees anymore they look like trees and Tuscan paintings. We go to the Riviera and we see trees there that look like do feet trees. You know all of a sudden it's like for us anyway for any of us who work in this area. Everything that we look at we look at through the kind of thing we do which is associated with the kind of thing that's being done now. That's an awful hang up and unfortunately that's what happens and I don't see anything unique about this in this situation.
And you have complex relations like De Kooning as a starting point. You have Jasper Johns using the Kooning painterly handling in a certain way for a completely different in which he's taking the content of the tunings. He's taking a de Kooning manner and used to the content of Ajanta paintings. Lichtenstein is taking the same thing and use an entirely different presentation of brushstroke which is the content of both these paintings is entirely different. And so it's an what what is the point about the idea of using a art as a starting point for creating art. Art now design is a starting point for creating art. Art our part you say I just gave it's coming out of Yale and ours and working in the way he is. It's hard to avoid the idea that these are developments out of out of design studies that he went through at Yale yet they have taken these as content for a work of art.
And I think the argument here would be that coming out of and relating to is different from Looks like well when we look at the Jasper Johns we don't say that looks like De Kooning I think we say that looks like it contains many of the coamings.
All I can say at that point is that that Johns has had a lot more exposure than the cerements have and if you look at them long enough you see how different their handling of these motifs they're having these general uses of color say relating to the Bay Area painter which is essentially there was one lady sitting in a cell phone and part of her who was painted and it was the upper left hand side and as it came down it was less and less painting and then the rest of the figure was that she had a green shadow slashing a diagonal brush her face in the rest of her body and flesh and.
See I would have felt a lot better about that because that particular ceramic and the slash on the other way and had it gone from the bottom up and I was going the top now is the causational quibble or what. No no because the No it isn't if it is it is now in terms of where it came from that when we look at the big shots and the other one is David Corn you get that same type of slash in that same building. And you know in the upper left nown even have been the upper right now and I would have felt better about it.
Now if you say gee that's a great idea I wonder how it would go this way. I say great you know it is you know it's related and you can see it and I like things that are related to other things.
It seems to find the same objection in office paintings because Matisse did the same thing. No because they're very different. Well I think this is handled differently too because Shaw uses these things in terms of how the lighting will fall on a three dimensional figure which is what he is using and ceramics and the coloration is generally worked out in terms of what this figure is doing three dimensionally where most of the area painters Bisher fish often even corn or working in terms of handling paint in a two dimensional format.
And so again I would say this is a problem of bringing too many associations maybe to the piece and I'm still mulling over you know how why this why this fits into how this might fit into the definition of Pop-Pop.
I was mulling over this idea that these ceramics pieces seem to be a rejection of the usually accepted ceramic form that's for sure.
And and then when you think on it in terms of when you think in terms of the pop painters you find that they seem to have been appear to have been a kind of working with a rejection of abstract expressionism and probably off art which were very very formal and although a great departure from earlier painting were still a very painterly look just as a plot would have a very different ceramics look. So the fact that these these Potters have broken away from the traditional form and then when I think of traditional form I'm thinking really about the influence say in the last maybe 10 or 15 years on ceramics of the Orient of Japan even though they still are very early if if you can coin a phrase I mean that they broken away from they broken away from what we have come to expect as pottery and certainly putting on as appendages are dealing with again banalities the trivia of life people shoes comic strip and so forth.
And and I still feel that they could I still feel that they could be considered a a kind of pop art movement within the ceramics within the potter pottery field.
Well there was some support for that argument and I can tell you the only difficulty is that that I don't see why you are fighting it that way. I just want to say something about it a lot easier to go along with it. I mean. There the argument in terms of the work not just the ones which just gets destroyed.
The right thing about pottery you destroyed the wrong thing and that was you know a lot more about what's happening with painting you know a lot less about what's happening what has happened pottery and you take very much the same thing happened is that these Potters are these Potters I call them they're also destroying abstract expressionist pottery they're destroying. Peter BOLKUS they were students in the main Peterbilt. So I started this once before I might as well enlarge on this why it happened on the West Coast for one thing why it happened on the West Coast is because Clay exists on the West Coast and Clay exists on the West Coast for one reason. Peter BOLKUS Volks came to Los Angeles in the early 50s and started to do monumental ceramic pieces abstract expressionist basically pieces that were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art pieces that had a great deal of difficulty being associated with the traditional pottery shows but one time related to abstract expression is an abstract expressionist part.
Well his his his approach to handling the medium is exactly the same as abstract. It's an analog. Yeah.
They're him or or sculpture.
Now do you see the type of argument we can get in there. Now it's the same focus because of focus.
It created a great impetus impetus.
Yeah I was going to say that for a movement in clay and on the coast first of all it was in Los Angeles and then he went to Berkeley and in each case there are tremendous facilities for ceramics and a group of young interesting ceramic sisters who grew up around him John Mason Paul sole owner Henry Komodo and a number of other people like this.
Most of these people are either students of his directly Melchett for example who's in his fingers from cars or they have been either associated with him on a non-student capacity or they are students of his students. Let's face it one of the things that has happened had happened in the so-called pop movement was that they were going to wipe out their elders. This is what's happened in a way in a much more friendly way in ceramics is that the end came as far as the Voelcker ceramics were concerned with these guys and and very radically they changed this. First of all by introducing low fire all of these things were high for single glazed pieces. The only case of of working again in them was to maybe something didn't come out you refired it. Possibly but that was like that didn't happen often. They were they were big. And now these pieces are a little fire. There are multiple firings maybe 10 firings sometimes to use this China paint and so use of of an old material that that had sort of degenerated into you know many ceramics in a banal technique to you it's turning right it is.
It is but it doesn't necessarily have to be because one of the people who isn't shown in this show who is a very influential guy and this is a young fellow the name Ron Nagl.
And and Nagel has also developed the use of the silk screen with this. He takes photographs of people or photographs of makes photographs of things and makes photographic smokescreens makes China paint the cows which he applies to the wear and then fires. And this is a very involved technique very much if you want to again relate it to pop very much like Laurel was doing very independently of worlds kind of thing. It started about the same time ago at least seven years ago.
And so and I think well I was going to say I think in another case that they're turned on to a lot of things you used to go into people's studios and they were playing classical music and nowadays you know the music is strictly WMC or K-Y or something like this which is all of which is they are in our stations you know. Yeah and it's you know it's a different thing. Nagle for example has a rock n roll band on the West Coast and they're involved with this kind of imagery.
You know which is to go back to its question just a second is that this comes out of a move a sort of generational activity very similar to the business of Pop coming out in relation to abstract expressionism and it's just that this it never was in the ghetto you know said the exposure it it hasn't been anything like the same place.
Also in fact you know only in the abstract expressionist movement there was once the term was was was caught you know once a phrase was coined it became all embracing almost the whole generation whether whether you were anything like the painter whose work inspired the phrase It ranged from Rothko all the way to de Kooning you know from very cool to very violent. And it seems to me that no matter how much you might want to avoid it.
But the pop art phrase has been coined.
And these these Potters are going to be included in it because they have a vaguely general appearance and relationship to the pop art movement as well as they're just in the generations that we're here to be more than vaguely general and pop art doesn't have any very denotative value in relation to this work any more than an action painting would have had. Rosenberg's turn for a polished action painting had very little to do with what Rathke learning to do with being at the same time.
And so I'm. So action painting never caught on because it wasn't easy for people to use it with all the people they were Association or the idea of an abstract expressionist abstract expressionism lost most of its denotative value.
You're trying to talk about it you use a term like this for new work which is what is being presented here and you're trying to use it to communicate some idea of what this work is about and pop art just simply doesn't tell you very much of what these people are about and someone going into this exhibition would be faith confronted with one being in your terms.
Ben Bruce Well I hope somebody going into it.
I'm so. It ain't as it's around.
Somebody going into any exhibition is confronted with a series of individual accomplishments and rather than just subsuming them out of some general under some general heading. Can't we put them in some sort of perspective when was all that far apart.
I suppose that's why I'm asking you to put them in perspective for us.
Well all I can is all I can do is run a list of the general pieces which is what my interests are I'm not interested in them as a in terms of style or or naming movements. There's nothing that will tell anybody about them because they don't all this whole business of what you're involved with in writing a catalog which is one of my problems or illustrating the pieces is providing people with substitutes for confronting a work of art which is not the business of a gallery because it's just the thing looking at is one small point was that I noticed that we speak a lot.
We spoke a lot about pop art and it seemed that generally at the advent of pop art particularly pop art not up or any other pop art product. They wanted a product they wanted to get the thing we wanted to get something out there and so they abandoned large portion oil painting variety and you know used other materials. These materials never in any way dictated However what they were doing. In other words it was just a way of realizing their form and it was just a small point that I've noticed by particular Lichtenstein particularly this series of landscape. The thing itself the very thing itself by plastic with the double overlays the to the chrome border everything. And it was it gave the image where I noticed here. Generally speaking of the wall there's a very slight hindered ceramics coming through which is very interesting the shoe is careful. In other words you have to have two choices going right to a shoe.
The shoe is a dresser I'm sure.
But what makes me sure it keeps referring to the shoe is talking to the beetle thing I notice in the face area the glazes the technical attitude and the technical limitations which are always present dictated very carefully. There was a slight That seems to be a slight shift in other words a piece of Plexiglas with the double sheet of dots situation need. There you have one thing. But with ceramics and suddenly a bleed or movement.
No I think you have something else. Mixing Bumble knocking on the door saying I think you know what. That's it. Take it or leave it. There's no more there's no art there's no meat. That's it. I have to take the case of the Ringo plaque.
I'd do very quick verse. This is a piece that was done by a man who's primarily a painter and he did. He works in ceramics because there are certain things that he can't he can do in painting that he finds he can do in ceramics. It's not the dictates of what the medium tells he is not basically a ceramics who is doing the things that ceramics can do. These are things that he wants to do that he can do in ceramics and this is the difference between maybe one of the major difference between these people and say that the traditional role of the potter who quite properly I think in most cases was working within the range of possibilities or the medium dictated to him. Right now you go on.
I was just going to say that I couldn't disagree more on that point because I think number one is that the layman for one and many artists for another were confounded by the shoes because they thought they were bronze.
You know I understand what could have been a lack of the except that possibly she would have had to have a bronze characteristic you're going to have over time.
They have very bronze patina on gold rubbed on now. That's a LBP character in a way and some people think some of the other things are classics and a whole lot of things because now you've got to call it new stuff that I was talking about. You got to call it pop because some of this stuff looks like Plexiglas and it may be masonite. Some of it looks like Mason right and maybe Plexiglas. Now I know only one major.
My major point is going back to this beetle plaque and looking at it. It is definitely a personal statement to the point that there is in other words an obvious attempt to change or alter this thing we're in Lichtenstein you never ever had this it was like it's never even when he takes a small section of the strip. You never know. He's very careful never to enter. It's a very unsubtle Ringo face but yet it has all the foils it has all the trappings of all the covers.
So like you want to say you know take your coat off or put it on or you know it's like is the situation's very soft. And it strikes you funny because you say well then you didn't and the next pylon is how good is the drawing. And then you get into your formal structural and then of course this is extremely impossible and most difficult it is because in any round table thing but it starts with with Lichtenstein with and never starts like it's all over before it began.
Which is one of the. Which makes us so different. And you know this has though the highchairs line of the gas pipe with papar know that it's covered and you get all the aspects yet you still somebody being personal and then you've got another problem on your hands when you want to be personal and part that's very difficult.
No problem for categorical impossible.
I don't well do better than one who's Trapps this phrase on you know the phrase being strapped is parts lost its meaning really practically has been washed out. But back to the couch it's the same thing. I feel a great degree like the button pressing and then all of a sudden a personal approach and then all of a sudden another shift around and it you. It's too terribly ambiguous to accept as either a ceramics or B sculpture and then you're left with saying you know the idea is left and this seems to be like very very fleeting to some degree.
Sometimes I don't know what it sounds like you got to where you have to look at it. Is there something particular something peculiar. A. A new thing that you don't have a lot of funded experience to bring to which I think was what I was trying to get at.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- Studio Talk
- Alan Graham-Collier
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- WGBH Educational Foundation
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- WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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