Ceramic Statement

In his new body of work, artist, Seth Kaufman, revisits the practice of altering/manipulating found slip mold ceramic objects.

The slip mold process has been used to produce everything from decorative figurines, typically characterized as having a “crafters” appeal to porcelain dolls to utilitarian devices such as ashtrays, dinnerware and fine china. Slip molds are a desirable choice for certain types of manufacturing processes; they are comparatively inexpensive yet they can produce a high level of image and shape accuracy and consistency in large quantities.

Jeff Koons describes his monumental slip mold, “Michael Jackson and Bubbles”, 1988, as a “contemporary Christ figure”. Koons manages to deify Jackson, a pop culture icon, by imbuing him with the classical heroism found in Renaissance sculpture and then making the lofty, and some would argue audacious association accessible and even palatable by appropriating the kitsch elements of slip mold trinkets.

Whereas Koons appropriated and fused contemporary and classical associations to elevate the status of his subject, Kaufman illuminates the hidden possibilities of the medium and genre itself and the nature of its decorative often tacky and sometimes sincere sweet humor. Both qualities often characterize its popularity, serving the lowest common denominator of sentimentality and design within our culture.

In a recent body of work, Kaufman removed the facial features of a found Slip Mold of Michelangelo’s “David” bust by first revealing and then decorating, with ceramic glaze, the interior cavity of the object. A simple yet shocking development since ceramic slip mold objects visually function, almost exclusively, as sculptural surfaces to be glazed or painted. The void within is intended to function only occasionally, i.e. in the circumstance of a vessel or container, a cup, vase or piggybank – though rarely if never as a visually accessible landscape. By cutting through and activating the void, Kaufman breaks the rules by dismantling the consensus understanding of how a slip mold object must function.

Kaufman now reaches deeper into the slip mold world of clowns, cherubic angels, big eyed owls, and religious icons. In his new body of work the artist manipulates found ceramic slip mold statuettes straight out of the mold and while they are still wet, he then distorts and or completely obliterates their recognizable characteristics through the processes of cracking, squishing, squeezing and smooshing.

Once again Kaufman seeks to slip through the narrow margins of our collective expectation and interact with a concept and/or material in a manner which is inconsistent with prudence and propriety. His works express an irreverent view of popular culture’s clutch on classicism while simultaneously expressing a deeply respectful nod to that which proves to be eternally symbolic.