Friday, March 18, 2011

Last Chance for Splendidness!


"Few artists maintain their balance as elegantly and consistently as Phyllis Green. And I’m not just referring to gravity and its discontents – though Green’s always-inventive engagement with this oft-disregarded central pillar of sculptural practice also sets her work apart from the herd. The balancing act to which I refer consists of operating simultaneously in a multiplicity of universes which are often deemed entirely discrete – if not mutually exclusive. Figuration VS abstraction, surface decoration VS truth-to-materials, frivolity VS gravitas, sociopolitical observation VS aesthetic formalism – these are some of the received polarities whose borderlines function as highwires to Green’s exquisite bodily surrogates.

This manifest skepticism towards falling in with one camp or another stems partly from Green’s training and on-again off-again involvement with ceramics. As anyone familiar with the course of contemporary western art is aware, the role of clay in the canon of high art has been a more turbulent and contentious issue than that of performance art or photography, oscillating from centrality to outer darkness according to prevailing academic, curatorial and critical biases. Sculptors working with fired and glazed mud – when not adopting a position of radical ahistoricim - have had to develop sharp instincts to avoid being ghettoized as hippy craftspersons.

Often the result has been work that deliberately throws itself at the mercy of the opposite camp by overtly mocking the conventions and vocabulary of traditional ceramics – decorative figurines engaged in post-modern orgies, soup tureens painted with political atrocities, that sort of thing. Phyllis Green’s oeuvre has avoided such abject literalist groveling while playfully challenging assumptions from either side of the fence, creating – for example -- surfaces that read like elaborate psychedelic glazes which are, in fact, built up from thin layers of tinted industrial polymer cement then sanded to a glass-like and fractally decorative surface, or biomorphic forms that look thrown or pinched but are constructed from lumber, chickenwire, and similar building contractor materials. But probably the most significant ongoing reference to ceramic fundamentals in Green’s work is her complex and ongoing exploration of the archetypal Vessel...."

Read the rest of Woman on Wire: Phyllis Green’s Fabulous Stunt Doubles in the bee-yoo-tiful catalog available from OTIS.

And go see her show today or tomorrow! Last chance, mudheads!

1 comment:

apandp said...

"Splendid" is gone, but your splendid essay lives on in the catalog, Doug. Thanks, XO P.