German / English
The ceramic work of American artist Liz Larner (born 1960) offers many different layers: their form and heaviness are reminiscent of antique plates, in the deep hues of the glazings they are like paintings, while their fissured and often broken surfaces tell the story of their creation. This theme of brokenness can also be found in the titles: caesura suggests a pause between two halves, subduction refers to the collision of tectonic plates, calefaction is a heat experiment in which minerals added to the clay crystallize or evaporate, porcelain melt means putting stress on what has already been created. Above the cracks, though, Larner adds the mesmerizing surfaces of her exactly shaded glazings.
The book presents these works as shown at Galerie Max Hetzler in Berlin 2016. Two different storylines meet here: Larner’s own artistic development, where her conceptual interest led her to work with ceramics around the turn of the millennium, and the role the material has played in the history of modernism through artists such as Picasso, Fontana, Asger Jorn, and Peter Voulkos. ““As with Fontana’s and Jorn’s best works,” Peter Pakesch writes in his essay, “ceramic in Larner’s hands becomes a special combination of painting and sculpture, embodying the qualities of both worlds. Approaching ceramics from a background of conceptual analysis, she has always made the case for a deep study of the material and its special characteristics. She may now have arrived at the point at which—beyond the contradictions that always held a special significance in her work—she has achieved a naturalness that allows her a virtuosic play of form, material, and color. With what other material could this have been possible?”
MATERIAL AND PAINTING IN SCULPTURE
The special relationship between art and ceramic as a material reaches back into prehistory. Clay plays an important role in many early creation myths. And alongside manipulated stones and drawings on cave walls, objects made of fired clay are among the earliest testaments to human creation: the first ceramics. The oldest of them, as far as we know, were figures; only later were the first vessels made. The processing of materials and the skills necessary to do so—the τέχνη (techne), to borrow a term already used by the philosophers of ancient Greece to describe their understanding of art, science, and technology—was very inclusive at the time, linking practical value and theoretical insight, to be understood both functionally and aesthetically. Pandora, made from clay, as a pitcher or a female figure, then brought the achievements, the blessings, but also the curses of all this material knowledge into our world. An intuition of these ambivalences would continue to accompany the arts over time, saving us from falling for shiny surfaces, enabling us to see the inner depths.
When we enter the exhibition of American artist Liz Larner at Galerie Max Hetzler in Berlin, we see colorful, rather amorphous objects on the walls and on the floor. On closer inspection, we realize they have been modeled from clay: ceramics, some glazed, others coated in layers of colorful plastic and oil paint. They are artworks that both shine in their unique perfection and do not hide the traces of their creation. These enigmatic bodies confront us in an extremely alluring way. Their meaning does not reveal itself at first glance; their appeal, however, is strong. We thus have to dig deeper when we encounter such works today. We have to think about the meaning of materials in general and of ceramics in particular, about painting and sculpture in rich interaction, but also about the possibility of fundamentally reflecting on creation, questioning the artistic process in an aesthetic discourse…