Peter Shire at SMC
Santa Monica College is host to lots of art and culture. Not just KCRW, my constant companion NPR radio station—something that I’ve mentioned before in this blog. Santa Monica College also is the home of the Broad Stage, another of the generous philanthropic gifts from Eli and Edythe Broad. In the same complex at the Broad Stage is the Pete and Susan Barrett Art Gallery. Within the last year and a half, the small college-and-community gallery has presented shows by Gwynn Murrill and Edith Baumann. Coming up soon, from November 2nd to December 4th, is a show by Peter Shire.
It’s a long distance between Echo Park and Hokkiado, but back in 1992 Peter Shire bridged that oceanic gap. Not just by his travel, but in his sculpture. In a fantastic series of teapots, Peter melded stainless steel and ikebana, and mixed bolts with bamboo. As always, a post-modern constructivist sensibility was lightened by a sense of humor. This series of work, made in Japan in 1992, takes the familiar domestic object into the zany and bizarre world of Shire’s mechanical fantasy.
The playful seriousness and serious playfulness of Peter Shire was clearly evident. He continually re-invented the form of the teapot during the 1980s, and this series of works shows him at the height of his powers. Although it was decades ago that Peter Shire turned his attention to the form of the teapot, these constructed works show an artist’s delight in composition and construction.
Strong and stable at the base, the teapot-sculptures stand and support a variety of shapes. Next to the simple stainless steel planes are vibrant colored palette shapes and perforated swords. Who else would have thought to combine the hardness of the stainless steel with the organic and leafy bamboo? Who else would have kept his own color sense? Peter combined his own history with color and was pushed by Japanese colors—perhaps the deep color of a plum blossom or a leafy green.
Peter’s father, Hank, was also a consummate craftsman. Shire’s attention to detail reflects that love of the finely crafted object. So that’s the mix we see in this work: a blend of something Eastern, something Western—and a mix of the nuts and bolts of construction with the lightness and air of bamboo. One can sense the delight and playful hand of the artist.