Alwyn O’Brien’s open, lacy sculptures are baroque in their excess and cross cultural in their references. Her approach to clay evolved out of her practice as a printmaker. Perhaps it is because of this indirect introduction to the medium that she works as if she is unaware of clay’s material restraints, building delicate forms and ornamental drawings out of thinly coiled loops and scraps of porcelain. While airy and elegant, the sculptures also hint at chaos or distress; some leaning, as if heavy from weight, others with fractured bases or scrunched feet, still others misaligned with tangled strands of clay extending randomly. For this exhibition at The Center, O’Brien’s installation includes a ceramic wall drawing.
Annabeth Rosen’s relationship to clay is based in an acute curiosity about what is possible. She intentionally pushes the material’s boundaries, creating accidents and exploding form to see how, in response and repair, the work can be translated into a new entity. Her forms are often pieced together from prior works that she reassembles into a new shape. Each sculpture slightly different, they seem to be struggling to articulate a state or emotion that eludes harnessing. Lumpy pyramids spiral upward like waves or mountains or snails, their tilt and list suggesting motion and transformation. For Rosen, the metaphors about clay and creation are real. Everything has the potential to be the next thing—to be better, reimagined, reconsidered.
Ceramics and pottery have long been associated with domesticity. A feeling of familiarity and the suggestion of everyday things chosen and cared for is at the root of Linda Lopez’s work. Her pieces, which are completely non-functional, nevertheless imply usefulness and intimacy. She speaks of a desire to animate the inanimate and traces that impulse to looking at household goods through her Vietnamese mother’s eyes, whose language barrier led her to ascribe feelings to everyday objects. Lopez creates still lifes or assemblages—arranging ceramic pieces and drawings on blond wooden shelves. Their careful presentation invites us to invent our own stories about the objects and what links them, using her choice of form and color as clues. Open loops and soft, mop-like shapes suggest malleability and growth.
William O’Brien’s ceramic pieces are messy, exuberant explorations of form and material. His sculptures’ heavy shapes and thick walls are enlivened by surfaces that have been poked and scraped, and then extended with curls and blobs. Interested in what he calls clay’s “vulgarity,” O’Brien challenges the idea of what competency in art means. Decidedly not elegant, his work instead delights in its playfulness—there is absurdity in exaggerated forms, oversized grins on the face jugs, contradictory or oppositional colors. Keenly aware of decorative arts’ traditions as well as their secondclass status, O’Brien is unafraid of the realm of craft. His face pots are a direct reference to those made by black artists in the antebellum South. He champions a no restraint policy that is evident in a cacophony of surface activity and a celebration of clay’s physical responsiveness.
Gallery Walks Fri, Jul 10, Aug 7 and Sep 3, 5–7pm Free at The Center Start your Gallery Walk at The Center!
cover panel: Alwyn O’Brien, Taking Form (detail). intro panel: Linda Lopez, Objects Made to be R ejected (detail); Annabeth Rosen, Untitled (detail). events panel: William O’Brien, Untitled (detail); Alwyn O’Brien, Taking Form (detail). interior left to right: Alwyn O’Brien, Taking Form, 2015, ceramic, dimensions variable, courtesy the artist and James Harris Gallery, Seattle; Annabeth Rosen, Fray, 2015, ceramic, 13.5 x 16 x 12", courtesy the artist, Photo: Lee Fatherree; Linda Lopez, Objects Made to be R ejected, 2014, ceramic, wood, 66 x 62 x 18", courtesy the artist; William O’Brien, Untitled, 2013, ceramic, 19 x 13 x 13", courtesy the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, NY.
Thu, Jul 30 and Thu, Sep 3, 5:30pm Free at The Center Join us for a glass of wine as your tour the exhibition with The Center’s curators and gallery guides.
Evening Exhibition Tours
Fri, Jul 10, 5–7pm Free at The Center Alwyn O’Brien and William O’Brien will lead an informal conversation about their work at 6pm.
191 Fifth Street East,
Clay is a distinct medium, attracting artists who respond to its physicality and who are interested in grappling with the balance between release and control that its process demands. There is alchemy at work with this malleable, fluid material that through fire becomes fixed, hardened, permanent. The artists in this exhibition celebrate the inherent contradictions in clay—honoring the tension between the opposing forces of stability and instability, motion and stasis, permanence and temporality. Exploding, elongating, puncturing and drawing, these artists extend the boundaries of what clay can do and how it has traditionally been presented. Not exclusively ceramists, all four artists in the exhibition employ drawing and other mediums to articulate their artistic voices. William O’Brien uses drawing as the foundation for all his works, whether working with clay, textiles or paint. Annabeth Rosen makes gestural drawings that are a visual animation of the force behind her ceramic forms. Linda Lopez often incorporates drawings into her assemblages. Alwyn O’Brien found her entry into making sculptural objects through drawing and printing with clay. Each of these artists are making work that celebrates and sometimes challenges clay’s physical properties, resulting in art that is spirited, messy, gleeful and sometimes defiant.
Opening Celebration and Gallery Walk
Sats in Jul & Aug, 11am–5pm
July 10–September 18, 2015
The Center hours & location:
Sun Valley Center for the Arts P O Box 656 Sun Valley, ID 83353
Defying Gravity: Interventions in Clay
Defying Gravity: Interventions in Clay July 10–September 18, 2015 A Visual Arts Project of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts