It all started with my neighborhood friend Barry Hand’s mother Donna Hands, who let Barry and me make some clay dragons at their house. Mrs. Hands was a high school art and ceramics teacher at Davis Senior High school and would fire the pieces we made. Later, I took several classes with her and fell in love with working with clay.
Identity is the way we perceive and express ourselves; often it plays a role in defining one’s distinctiveness as it questions how to relate to one’s culture. I posit that women often seek to contribute to a general identity viewpoint by offering holistic, relational and cultural perspectives, particularly from their familial environment. They expand upon notions that emphasize and distinguish elements from their everyday lives, even though traditionalist still question their ability to destabilize social norms.
A recent exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery of the University of Washington in Seattle sought to trace ceramics’ origins, in primordial mud and dirt. This is done by spot-lighting several artists making objects and installations that explore ancestral and indigenous associations to their respective cultures.
The first striking thing about Los Angeles artist Shio Kusaka’s exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery is the unusual presentation: the pots are placed on the floor on a series of thin square copper plates of varying sizes that stretch down the middle of the warehouse-like space of more than 3,000 square feet, or about 303 square meters. They command the space, both because of their soldier-like order and, of course, because there is nothing else to look at in the vast space except for an attendant sitting in a corner. Order, in fact, may be a key word. Not only do the pots march through the space, they are in themselves orderly, masterful forms – some quite large – with linear decorations that are engaging, yet always controlled. There is nothing impulsive in the whole show, except perhaps for the sequencing. I’m not able to devise an explanation for the relationships between them, so I fall to thinking of it as intuitive rather than reasoned.