Dec 15, 2009

Arlene Shechet: Blow by Blow

Arlene Shechet: Blow by Blow at The Tang Museuem in Saratoga Springs.

I had the good fortune of interviewing the artist a few weeks ago while she was in residence on the Skidmore campus. The museum statement can be found below. The written interview is to follow. Ms. Shechet was featured in the exhibition Dirt on Delight: Impulses That Form Clay early this year (January 15th-June 21st, 2009) at the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art. That exhibition, reviewed and later presented by Roberta Smith at the National Council on Education in the Ceramics Arts Conference in Phoenix, AZ caused some hot discussion among NCECA members. I was, and am, fascinated by that discussion and the ways in which it challenges current approaches to ceramics education.

Arlene Shechet’s recent glazed ceramic objects float, twist, and puff up atop stacks of unadorned concrete, plaster, wood, and steel. While Shechet has worked in sculpture for over two decades, these new works shift away from her earlier explorations of iconographic Buddhist imagery toward more abstract forms and combinations. Confounding any single reading, they hover in the fertile space between East and West, secular and sacred, and modern and ancient.

Shechet’s modeled surfaces demonstrate how clay mirrors the artist’s touch. Her objects bear the mark and memory of her hands. The sculpture's bulges, hollows, spouts, and holes evoke bodily features, and as the artist notes, are “suggestive of the curving forms found in classical Indian sculpture.” By coating the clay with eccentric color combinations and metallic glazes—created with an experimental disregard for traditional firing temperatures—Shechet not only fractures the objects’ surfaces but also undermines any single association with nature. Seeming to expand and deflate like a breath, Shechet’s dynamic works continually transform, as they reappear anew moment by moment.

Born in New York City, Arlene Shechet received her BA from New York University and her MFA from Rhode Island School of Design. Her work has been exhibited at numerous venues, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (2009), the Walker Art Center (2009), the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2008), the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (2008), the Rubin Museum of Art, New York (2007), Real Art Ways, Hartford (2005), and Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2003). She has created on-site installations at the United States Embassy, Beijing (2008), Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, Woodstock (2007), the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York (2001), and elsewhere.

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