Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sculptural Objects & Functional Art - 2006

I read somewhere there was lots of figure sculpture in this year's S.O.F.A. show (Sculptural Objects & Functional Art)-- so I had to grab the camera and go. Was there any chance I'd find something as wonderful as the above ceramic tableaux from 18th C. Spain ? Hah !

It turned out that -- just like last time I went --- the star of the show was the glass --

Glass -- glass -- more glass - the above three pieces by Marvin Lipovsky being my over-the-top favorites. Want to take one home ? That will set you back $35,000 (and commit you to a lifetime of dusting)

The figure sculpture was terrible -- the above being the best I could find -- and all of it a tribute to the collapse of the sculptural tradition.

Because this is not an "Art" show -- it's not supposed to be ugly-confrontational-depressing-provocative etc -- things are supposed to look good (i.e. decorative) --- and though there clearly is a desire to look at figures -- there isn't an art for making them that way.

Here's the prince of American glass, Dale Chihuly -- these pieces are 25 years old -- and notice how they're a bit less overstated -- but still expressing a love of excess.

Here's a Chihuly piece all by itself -- offering a nice, quiet aesthetic moment.

But there are also pieces by other artists that even quieter -- like this one called "Rain" -- perfect for a nice, high-end waiting room

Actually - I think the figures in these little tableaux are my favorites in the show -- they belong in their space (instead of assaulting it)

Isn't this scene beautiful ? How can anyone see this and still have a bad day ?

Actually -- there was another figure that I liked -- this Inuit piece by Ovilu Tunnillie. The stone is so beautiful -- the figure just melts away while looking at it.

Biology was one of my favorite high-school classes -- because micro-life can be so beautiful -- and that's how this piece feels.

Just like looking through the microscope -- without having to squint

Here's the most expensive set of glass I saw -- $350,000 for a wall-full -- by Lino Tagliapietra.

It just seems to be a lot to pay for what is basically a colorful bauble -- like the glass marbles we collected as kids -- just a lot bigger.

Maybe it's all the Japanese literature I've been reading -- but I'm preferring this Japanese aesthetic by Naomi Shioya

who also made these mysterious chairs. It follows the principle that the quiet voice is the one that commands the most attention.

Can you tell this glass was made by an Australian ? (Carmac Boydell) Maybe I couldn't have guessed it -- but it sure seems to have that masculine, agressive energy of the land down under.

Moving on to ceramics -- this was one of the few traditional objects I could find (by Michael McCarthy)-- as well as the least expensive (under $300)

And this was the most humorous piece I could find -- how can you look at this and not begin laughing ?

And once again, it's the Japanese aesthetic that seems the most attractive to me - although it would require the proper setting to be effective (a spot in a clean, empty room -- all by itself)-- otherwise -- it's just another piece of junk.

Something is so relaxing about this item.

Oops -- almost forgot about one more figure sculptor -- Dana Major Kanovitz -- and her dream visions of humans as elegant insects. O.K. -- maybe not my favorite genre -- but it has the sharp, cleaness of jewelry.

These things are so much fun -- it's hard to be too critical --- but comparing these high-priced decorative items to the high-end things made in other eras -- it's pathetic.

This is an esthetic of baubles -- big -- showy -- attention grabbing.

And some genres were completely absent -- like table-size classical bronzes -- or figures in wood or ivory. And what about ceramic figurines -- I mean ones that try to be elegant instead of comic/bizarre/goofy ? Why wasn't Lladro here ? (or others like them ?) What about imitation Mayan figure or Tang figures or Ming vases? We know that there are experts in imitating these styles in the counterfeit trade -- why can't these items be sold as up-front modern pieces ? I mean --- we're not talking about the museum artworld here -- just things that look good.

And why so much emphasis on glass ?

Because it's as surface-centered and fragile as our urban professional lives ?


Anonymous Joy In Life said...

I believe the white figure with decals is a Christyl Boger, yes? She was at IU when I was there...may still be. She has some nice work AND concepts behind it. The image you've shown does not, however, intrigue me.

Yes, most of the figurative ceramic world is tacky and garish. There are 3 or 4 books out there specifically about contemporary figurative work in clay. Of the many artists, there are 3 or 4 I look at.

I can never remember his name...he was French and did a boat with a couple in it, a sleeping couple, a Kamakura...he is just this side of sentimental and a deep silent sadness poools in his little figures. I will send you his name when I recall it.

November 12, 2006  
Anonymous Joy In Life said...

Here is a beautiful fragility:


November 12, 2006  
Blogger chris miller said...

Hi Amanda -- your comments are always appreciated -- but.....

Fragile -- yes.
Beautiful -- hmmmm

I think the piece featured here shows a nice sense of design up to -- but not including -- the figurative element ---- which is my take on what happens whenever the figure is introduced into a contemporary ceramic -- i.e. it presents problems that the designer cannot handle --- unless he wants a feeling of small-ugly-awkward -- although I guess that does strike many people as "cute".

For me -- there's no "joy-in-life" in it ---- especially as contrasted with that 18th C. ceramic (from the Art Institute) that I showed at the top of the post.

Most of the figure sculpture at SOFA was like this -- and I won't show it on this blog -- but for those who are curious,
here's a web gallery that displays it.

November 12, 2006  
Anonymous Joy In Life said...


The artist is dead, so I guess we won't be having any third parties pronouncing on our disagreements. Did you look at his couple in the boat, or should I not even ask? :)

I want to know what you think about this young man's life-size EVE (Adam exists, too), then. Mr. Swanson is currently at the school here:

We finally began a portrait head this past week, so I am feeling better...Beethoven's 9th in Santa Croce last night also helped with the music deprivation here.

November 12, 2006  
Blogger chris miller said...

If we wanted to commission a monument to alienation -- Jeanclos should have gotten the job.

And if the Field Museum of Natural History needed another Malvina Hoffman - they need look no further than Cody Swanson.

But if we want sculpture to do what LVB's ninth did for you in Santa Croce last night ...... we need to keep on searching ... in very different directions.

(Wow - a full orchestra in Santa Croce ? -- with all the lights out -- and all those murals looming darkly on the walls ? -- what an evening it must have been !)

November 12, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

This stuff isn't really my scene, but interesting nevertheless. The 4th pic down, the first figure - is it life size? If it is then that's technically quite an achievement I think. I agree however it is not...I don't know just not!

November 13, 2006  
Anonymous Joy In Life said...

Not sure I perceive the connect between Hoffman and Swanson. This is lifesize and the photo doesn't do it justice.

You're a tough one, Chris.

Show me your paragon of figurative sculpture.

Yes, full orchestra and choir in the cold church with images of the 1966 flood swimming over fresco.

If only the plastic arts could capture the notes.

November 13, 2006  
Blogger chris miller said...

I'm afraid, Amanda, that I don't recognize a paragon of figure sculpture --
since I like so many different things from so many different periods -
Asian-African-Classical-Meso-American etc. (my sculpture website only focuses on the
20th C. because --- "at my back I always hear, time's winged chariot hovering near")

But -- obviously -- I don't like everything -- and this piece under
discussion is --- for me --- a complete cipher -- a zero -- nothing more than
what was, I suppose, intended to be an anatomical study.

There's no music there -- just a bunch of simulated muscle groups and tendons.

Whether this sculptor will ever make music -- I don't know -- maybe not --
and I think that's the problem with the kind of the education he (and almost everyone after the collapse of the Soviet Union) are getting.

(note: I'm using the word "music" instead of visual art words like "design" or "composition" because those words seem so formal and analytical -- while I think everyone who loves music feels that it moves their heart and soul)

November 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is useful to try everything in practice anyway and I like that here it's always possible to find something new. :)

March 10, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not bad article, but I really miss that you didn't express your opinion, but ok you just have different approach

March 13, 2010  

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