Archive for July 2014
The elegant, restrained vessels of Richard DeVore have frequently been compared to human forms. It is easy to see why – their warm, matte surfaces evoke human skin; clefts, dimples, slits, and bulges in the works reference anatomical forms; and the suggestion of bilateral symmetry recalls the basic human figure. Even his commitment to a few selected vessel shapes, and a restricted color palette, recalls the diversity of life, bound as it is to certain limitations. Janet Koplos equated his body of work to a crowd of people, who are “recognizable as a species but infinite in their variety.”
Like people, DeVore’s works have rich interior lives, not immediately visible to the casual viewer. In many of his pots, the artist constructed a series of false bottoms that can only be discovered by peering over their rims. This requires the viewer to get close to and spend time with each piece in order to properly assess them. Invisible from the exterior, the pots have hidden layers that radically change the perception of each piece. A tall vessel, with steeply sloping walls is revealed to have a shallow interior, composed of a series of these false bottoms, accented with evocative cut-outs that lead to increasingly obscure levels. The works are mysterious, and do not easily give themselves away. Instead, as Koplos notes, “they stand, they feel, they keep secrets.”
-By Kelly E. Boyd
For the current show at the gallery, I have on display an outstanding piece called Pincushion Man, by Richard Shaw. Seated on a chair of stacked paper cups, his body is composed of sticks, tools, a mayonnaise jar and a miniature coffee cup. It’s his head that gives him his name – a strawberry red pincushion with button eyes. Because this is a work by Richard Shaw, all of these elements are painstakingly rendered in porcelain, in his signature trompe l’oeil style.
Shaw uses clay to recreate the objects of everyday life, gathering them together in still life compositions that speak to the presence of the person who ostensibly arranged them. The apparently casual nature of these pieces belie the considered relationships between items,and the layered references to pop culture, art history, and personal biography that exist within them.
The figurative works take the premise of the still lifes and extend it even further. Rather than simply referencing the presence of a person, the objects become people themselves. In a 2006 interview with Richard Whittaker, Shaw spoke about these works, saying that “taking the still life and making it into a person is like breathing life into it.” The artist taps into the expressive potential of ordinary items by anthropomorphizing them. The figures communicate with viewers through gesture and body language. As the personification of a still life, Pincushion Man returns the viewer’s gaze, peering back at them with his button eyes.
On July 12th, the gallery will open a new exhibition of works by Ralph Bacerra, Richard DeVore, and Richard Shaw. In anticipation of this, it feels like a good time to repost Richard Shaw’s online videos. Last February, Shaw participated in an artists’ conversation with Adrian Saxe. One of our most popular events, the two artists spoke at length about their respective practices, including their shared interest in juxtaposition and references to contemporary culture. I’m glad that we filmed their talk, and I’ve included the edited video below:
In 2005, Shaw was filmed in his studio by KQED for the arts education program Spark. This video really demonstrates the complexity of his artwork, revealing the enormous library of molds, glazes, decals, and transfers that he uses to achieve a stunning level of realism. The profile also captures Shaw in his element as Professor of Art at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught until his retirement in 2012.