Rachel Wolfson "Experimental Ceramicist Alessandro Pessoli on His Latest Creations"

Anton Kern Gallery

poster for Rachel Wolfson "Experimental Ceramicist Alessandro Pessoli on His Latest Creations"

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BIG EARS; MELTING FACES; hollow eyes; blurry nudes; top-hatted showmen; jeering caricatures; ghoulish nomads; and apparition-like Christian deities, all sketched and sprayed-painted with sloping expressive curves in a fleshy, acid-tinged palette.

Alessandro Pessoli is largely known as a painter, and a figurative painter at that (regardless of how abstract his figures tend to get). But the artist has long worked in three dimensions, his singular aesthetic and haunting subjects extending deep into the unexpected realm of ceramics. And with two major bicoastal outings this month, Pessoli’s interdisciplinary nature will be very much on display. The artist has a new show of painted ceramic sculptures opening at New York’s Anton Kern Gallery on September 14. The exhibition coincides with Pessoli’s first West Coast museum solo show, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from September 28 though January 21, 2013, which will include dozens of intimately scaled pencil drawings and several ceramic pieces.

Wandering and restlessness are major themes in the work, says SFMOMA curator Jenny Gheith, as if his subjects “have just emerged from this dream, and there’s no real definition of what’s between them and around them.” In that sense, Pessoli’s figures seem to migrate both formally and conceptually from clay to page. What connects the artist’s handling of the two mediums is his approach to shape, composition, and color: glazing ceramics being yet another outlet for his painterly instincts and, the artist says, a way to marry color and form. Above all, the works are united by the critical presence of the artist’s hand, be it sketching furiously on paper, spray-painting an aluminum sheet (which he sometimes uses in place of canvas), or kneading a resistant slab of clay.

“I’ve tried to maintain and widen the anarchic side of my imagination and the process of creating,” Pessoli says. “I’d like a feeling of freedom and vitality to emerge from the new works.”

“It’s very personal,” Gheith notes. “You really get that from the ceramics—the importance of his touch and his understanding of how the materials work.”

Pessoli relocated from Milan to Los Angeles in 2009, and Gheith says the move seems to have had a major impact on his work. His palette has lightened, and gone, for the most part, is the religious iconography that propelled him to international renown during his outing at the 2009 Venice Biennale. Now Pessoli appears to be embracing elements of a uniquely SoCal visual language. His last show, at L.A.’s Marc Foxx gallery, included a rainbow-hued painting of a graffiti-riddled Mercedes sedan. The title of the exhibition, “110 to Hellman,” referred to something deeply embedded in the Angeleno lifestyle: the artist’s home-to-studio commute.

The psychedelic colors carry over to several new ceramic works. Bathers, to be shown at Kern, is a painted majolica sculpture comprised of two nebulous multicolored forms on either side of a mounting wave. Abstract and figurative ceramics bearing a similar palette will be on view at Pessoli’s sfmoma exhibition as well.

“The move to L.A. certainly has had an influence on my work,” he says. “But explaining exactly how is difficult. True transformations always need a long time.”

This article appears in the September issue of Modern Painters magazine.



from September 14, 2012 to October 20, 2012

Opening Reception on 2012-09-14 from 18:00 to 20:00


Rachel Wolfson

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