September 8, 2016 — January 16, 2017
Visions and Revisions presents the work of Steven Young Lee, Kristen Morgin, Jennifer Trask, and Norwood Viviano, four artists who take innovative approaches to their selected mediums and who share a fascination with themes of transformation, ruin, and rebirth.
The four selected artists work in a remarkable variety of media including porcelain, raw clay, bone, gold, glass, and metal. Their visual sensibilities range from traditional Asian pottery to vintage Americana, and from the romance of the Victorian Era to the algorhythmic precision of the computer. Each is actively engaged in a dialogue with an idyllic past and in making sense of it for the present moment, investigating what we carry with us and what we leave behind as we remake ourselves time and again.
Steven Young Lee blends Eastern and Western traditions with anachronistic, often playful imagery and striking pattern in his porcelain works. His process allows the clay forms to sink under their own weight in the kiln, creating dramatic “broken” silhouettes that can never be replicated. The resulting vessels embody equal parts mastery and chance, and reflect Lee’s own inquiries into the nature of perfection, the construction of identity and balancing tradition with personal expression.
Kristen Morgin takes an unconventional approach to ceramics, using her trompe l’oeil sculptures and assemblages to explore personal nostalgia, obsolescence, and the American dream. Her works, ranging in scale from recreations of full-size cars and orchestral instruments to tiny knick-knacks and toys, appear as found objects but are in fact raw, unfired clay. Substituting paint and collage for the gloss of traditional ceramic glazes, Morgin achieves a garage-sale aesthetic in which thrift-store heroes like Popeye and Mighty Mouse preside and vintage playthings find new meaning. The sculptures represent a poignant investigation of the value of the old in a world intent on the new, invoking a sense of bygone innocence, loss, and isolation.
Jennifer Trask engages nature as both medium and subject matter, combining unexpected materials such as bone, vertebrae, butterfly wings, resin, metal, and antique frame fragments to create arresting jewelry and large-scale sculptures. Her lifelong fascination with biology, archaeology, and anthropology inform lavish works celebrating the splendor of the natural world and exploring the ongoing tension between its wild and domesticated spheres, while visually recalling seventeenth-century Dutch vanitas paintings and Victorian wonder cabinets. Animal remains — antler, horn, teeth, tusk, and bone — feature prominently in Trask’s work, fashioned into objects that bloom with radiant vitality and evoke cycles of death, transformation, and rebirth.
Norwood Viviano explores the rise and fall of American cities and industry through glass and metal sculptures. He combines data from LiDAR scan technology, antique maps, and historical census data, and employs techniques as varied as bronze casting, kiln-fusing, glass blowing, and 3‑D printing to map fluctuations of growth and decline as industry and other forces exert pressure on populations. His work engages not only the geography but also the history of a place, imbuing each object with layers of information to tell stories of how urbanization, immigration, and industry shape both personal and shared histories.
The exhibition includes more than 70 objects showcasing a range of early and new works by each artist. The artists were selected by Nora Atkinson, the museum’s Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft; Suzanne Ramljak, curator of exhibitions at the American Federation of Arts and editor at Metalsmith; and Anna Walker, the Windgate Foundation Curatorial Fellow for Contemporary Craft at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Visions and Revisions is the seventh installment of the biennial Renwick Invitational.