September 25 - November 20, 2021
From Lora Reynolds Gallery:
“Lora Reynolds is pleased to announce a project-room exhibition of new sculpture by Tony Marsh—the artist’s second presentation at the gallery.
Tony Marsh has been obsessed with clay for more than four decades. He has spent nearly his entire adult life shaping nonfunctional vessels, sending his ambitions to the kiln, and both marveling and puzzling over the results—sometimes a sculpture emerges, sometimes a pile of dust. For the last ten years, Marsh has been deeply engaged with the parallel bodies of work he calls Cauldrons and Crucibles. Minimalist in shape but maximalist in texture and color, they taught Marsh invaluable lessons about how his materials behave when pushed to their limits.
This show marks the debut of Marsh’s newest experiments: Neo-Crucibles, although still vessels, abandon commitment to a single, archetypal shape. Rather than consistently cylindrical, some new works have elliptic circumferences and flare or constrict as they rise. Sides gape with corporeal holes big enough to swallow a finger or a fist. Surfaces are so aggressively lumpy, they seem built from boiling liquid Marsh has somehow arrested into static form. They stand off-kilter, writhing, as if simultaneously buckling on one side and reaching toward another. One piece even looks constructed from alternating layers of bricks and blobs—is it growing or collapsing? (Illusions of movement and defiance of gravity seem like they could become defining features of this new body of work.) No approach to color is out of bounds: multi-layered, polychromatic, or psychedelic—unless restrained, neutral, or monochromatic. Surface textures bring to mind shattered glass, sea foam, cracked earth, crunchy snow, fungi, termite mounds. Neo-Crucibles are multivalent. Hard to pin down. Surprising. And massive—like chunky five-gallon buckets, tree trunks, or barrel-chested torsos.
A more subtle difference that sets the new work apart is the type of clay Marsh is using. He makes Neo-Crucibles with a smooth, low-fire, talc-body clay. (Cauldrons and Crucibles were made of high-fire, grittier stoneware.) The finer material is more expressive and records more of Marsh’s touch—it captures the sweeping gestures of his hands as he builds, sometimes even his fingerprints. And before glazing, the clay is a brighter white than Marsh is accustomed to, which makes colorful glazes even more vibrant than before. But with delights must come challenges—talc-body clay is more difficult to work with, less accepting of glaze, more prone to cracking and exploding in the kiln. Marsh no longer needs to push his materials to their limits; he is now working with clay that pushes him to the edge of possibility.
High risk, high reward—Marsh has always made an enemy of complacency. Whenever he gets too comfortable, he seeks out new problems to solve, new things to learn. (Before he devoted himself to ceramics, he played semi-pro baseball and taught himself to hit switch—a witheringly rare feat of determination.) If he ever finds his will faltering, he spends some time with his humble collection of 16th-century religious paintings, reminding himself that some of these works took one full-time artist 12 years to make—at a time when life expectancy was no more than 40.
Tony Marsh has dedicated his life to a material and a form he says never seems to exhaust itself—clay and the vessel. Each has been critical to humankind since ancient times: for survival, storytelling, beauty—for how we make sense of ourselves and the world around us. Marsh continues the tradition, following a well-worn path—and yet still breaking new ground.
Tony Marsh, born in 1954 in New York, lives and works in Long Beach. Early in his career, he undertook a three-year apprenticeship with the late Tatsuzo Shimaoka, a master potter who was named a Living National Treasure of Japan. His work is in the collections of the Contemporary Museum of Honolulu, Everson Museum (Syracuse), Long Beach Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Minneapolis Institute for the Arts, Museum of Art and Design (New York), Museum of Contemporary International Ceramic Art (South Korea), Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Newark Museum, San Jose Museum of Art, and Taipei Ceramics Museum.”
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