Graham Marks in New York, NY

I’ve been to Long Island City only a handful of times, to go to the Noguchi Museum and PS1 (which is in Queens, but not too far from each other). My friend Vince told me about a ceramics opening, that he knew I would love. My husband is always game for an art adventure, and knowing that we could end the evening having dinner at Casa Enrique sealed the deal. Every trip to Long Island City ends with dinner there.

Graham Marks: It Can Be What It Becomes was more than worth the subway ride. What a fun evening of seeing a truly fantastic show, meeting Graham, and seeing the beautiful studio space. People could not have been nicer, and I left feeling like I found a new clay community that perhaps one day, if I end up spending more time in NYC, I’d enjoy being a part of.

The work is coil constructed with some pieces having thrown parts, and a few with modeled or hand built parts.

Feel free to contact me as I have a list of all the art, should you like more detailed information and pricing. All pieces have a number, but it was a bit of a puzzle to add under each of the photos below.

The colors for the candles that Graham chose for the exhibition were absolutely perfect, and I mean perfect.

Glenn Adamson wrote a lovely piece to accompany the show. “The candelabra grins madly, leaping and twirling about the room, flames aflicker. “Be our guest!,” it sings, “be our guest, put our magic to the test!,” silver, plates, a shelf clock and various other accoutrements put on a fine show. The scene is, of course, from Disney’s much-loved movie The Beauty and the Beast. Futuristic when it first appeared, thanks to its use of then-new digital technology, the film is now comfortably wrapped in nostalgia, though it’s not nearly as historic as the objects that helped to inspire the scene, as well as Disney’s earlier work. That whole long overlapping history was the subject of the exhibition Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was a massive hit, but there can’t have been anyone who responded to it more creatively than Graham Marks. His new body of work, shown at Sculpture Space NYC – Center for Ceramic Arts, had its initial spark at the Met, and from there, he’s taken the basic idea of an animated thing and run with it – and leapt and twirled, too. Predominantly coil-built, these objects exemplify the adage (attributed to Paul Klee) of “taking a line for a walk.” They swarm with sinuous elements which defy any easy categorization. Are they primary structure? Applied handles? Simply decoration? They’re sufficiently splendid that it doesn’t much matter, all the more so given their luscious polychrome glazes, in a palette that recalls both Bernard Palissy, the 17th century French potter, and Marks’ great contemporary Annabeth Rosen.

All this exuberance will come as a bit of a shock to anyone who knows Marks as a ceramicist – a profession that he pursued up until three decades ago, when he had a career change and became an acupuncturist. Now he’s back, and it is not altogether surprising that he has returned to the medium with fresh eyes. His earlier works were also coil-built, admittedly, but also monumental in scale, rigorously structured, and largely unglazed, so as to expose the color and texture of the clay. Marks’s sudden attraction to the baroque and rococo has caught even him off guard: “In art school in the early 1970’s, this was material I never looked at. It was seen as kind of frivolous, decadent, of the past.” A lot has happened since then, though: postmodernism, a tendency toward “sloppy craft,” an unprecedented embrace of ceramics within the mainstream art world. Marks’ new direction is not contained by any of these phenomena, but it is a vector that can be mapped in relation. (Also relevant: more remote sources, like Jomon ware from ancient Japan and ancient alabaster carvings from Egypt). In any case, this recent work is much more than the sum of its many parts. It conveys the sheer joy of an artist’s reunion with medium, and the formal intelligence that comes from a lifetime of looking. Most of all, it is free – free of his own past, free of any particular expectation about what might come next, free of anything that doesn’t feel good right now. Marks is putting his own personal magic to the test – and he’s passing with flying colors.”

In the announcement for the opening reception of the show, there was mention of a drink fountain. Of course, Graham made the fountain, and it was extraordinary. Good thing my kids don’t read my blog, as they’d be asking me why I don’t know how to make something like this. They already want to use my kiln for pizza.

“Graham Marks taught ceramics at Kansas State University, Rochester Institute of Technology, and from 1986-1992 was Head of Ceramics at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. His work has been exhibited internationally and collected privately and by numerous public institutions including Yale University Art Gallery, Detroit Institute of Art, The Everson Museum Syracuse NY, Museum of Art and Design NYC, Cranbrook Museum of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI, Stedelijk Museum, ‘s’Hertogenbosch the Netherlands, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia, and The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Graham splits his time between Brooklyn and Alfred, New York.” (Sculpture Space)

The work is up through December 3rd, so go see it if you can!

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