Friday, September 17, 2010

My Plates

Yesterday, after what constitutes a marathon session of reading at the Library of Congress (for me, that's about 4 hours), I decided I need to to go to a museum and actually see objects rather than reading about them. After skimming furniture books, exhibition catalogs and reacquainting myself with Mark Del Vecchio's Postmodern Ceramics, I knew I needed to go to the Luce Center.

The Luce Center, located in the Reynolds Center (which also houses the entirety of SAAM and the National Portrait Gallery), is open storage for both fine art and craft. Honestly, I've spent very little time in the fine art section because that doesn't appeal to me on the same level. So, I wandered up to the third level to look for "my plates."

These aren't plates I made. These are the plates that pretty much changed my life and the whole trajectory of my graduate school career. I spent a semester learning about these plates, about their maker, Howard Kottler, and discovering the whole world of Postmodernism. I read Fredric Jameson--and for anyone who's ever read him, you understand exactly how hard that was. But that's beside the point.

These plates are clever. Incredibly so. Kottler takes porcelain blanks, like you would find at a production factory, and applies decals to them. When he originally began his work, he used both porcelain blanks and commercially available decals. (My favorite part is that this process is called decalcomania.) These particular plates, as you can see above, take Thomas Gainsborough's "Blue Boy" and do humorous, if not dark, things to him. The one above is probably one of my favorites called "The Ambitious Resident." The repetition of the carriage, which came from a standard catalog of decals is combined with the special-ordered Blue Boy decal. The boy is chopped up in perfect pieces, but his expression doesn't change and he doesn't seem phased at all by this change. He also isn't going anywhere. What are his ambitions if he has no horses and can't even seem to pull himself together to have his entire body at least in one carriage? Kottler's other pieces probe in the same ways. "Would Blue Boy" is probably my second favorite from the set, but I encourage you to check out the pieces for yourself.

Photo credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum

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