Alice Clements “In the Basement” at Jancar
Yet another good show to see before it closes on Saturday, Dec 18.
Plaster has a lack of presence in contemporary art making, perhaps as material inquiry plaster could be termed a ‘non-site.’ Often it is used along the way to something else: as a plaster cast, or a mold. In this dimly lit basement Clements demonstrates that plaster does, like so many things, go both ways. Vessel and art. Maker and object.
(Geez, I didn’t intend this to go all weirdly pre-Feminist and also sexual reference laden, what with an implied “vessel crack’d” and “plaster casts” that give birth to art objects. I hope oblique references to barren wives and Jimi Hendrix’s dick don’t offend you Alice.)
Moving right along. The objects in this show are in fact made using molds, and yes one of those molds did break.
The colors Clements uses also look in-between – muted off tones of pink, and buff and taupe. They remind me of the colors Morandi used to depict his collections of containers. (There they are again – vessels!)
The grouping of small humps and lumps nearest the door are easy to skip over in favor of the larger tablet shapes leaning against two walls, but go back to them after you miss them. They’re friendly, and small – maybe in need of protection from our big bodies and feet. I didn’t notice, but perhaps you will, that they are only of two shapes, with one half shape. When I recall them I see hand-formed organic looking lumps such as I used to make with dough. In conversation Alice has told me that there were two molds, one of which broke, and so there are two whole shapes and one half shape. (So much for my close observations.)
The tablets are also made with molds and yet vary from one to another quite a bit. Differing treatments of the mold itself and varying colors made differences that encouraged my eyes to jump back and forth looking for similarity. I was looking for text, too. These tablets look like nothing if they don’t look like surfaces for hieroglyphs or cuneiform. Against the basement walls they lean, like some of Serra’s lead throws or, considering the fragile state of the medium, perhaps like Hesse’s latex or rubber pieces. (Aaaaugh! Now it’s a weaker vessel! I love it.)
I enjoy the lapses in perfection, and the lack of repeatability in Clements’ version of (that old reliable art trope) repetition. I also love the humor in making sculptures out of such heavy and brittle material.