Moki Cherry “Ceramics & Collages”

Kerry Schuss

poster for Moki Cherry “Ceramics & Collages”

This event has ended.

Organized with Bob Nickas

Kerry Schuss presents works by Swedish artist Moki Cherry (1943-2009), the first exhibition of her work in New York in more than twenty years. Focused on ceramics made from 1992-1996, and collages created in the 2000s, key aspects of this artist’s wide-ranging, inter-flowing body of work may be seen in relation to one another, as well as considered within the scope of her art over five decades.

Active since the ‘60s across visual art and music, as well as children’s programs and workshops—most prominently Atelier des Enfants at Centre Pompidou in Paris - Moki Cherry’s celebratory work embodies the curiosity, communality and freedom we associate with the decade’s utopic optimism. In collaboration with celebrated avant-jazz musician Don Cherry, her life partner since 1965, Moki’s work became known through their Organic Music tours, with her vibrantly colored, quilted tapestries hung on stage, their participation in legendary curator Pontus Hulten’s exhibition Utopias and Visions 1871–1981 at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet in 1971 (during which they lived and performed in a geodesic dome), and the many Don Cherry album covers that placed her art intimately in the hands of the public. A symbiotic correspondence between her highly spirited visual realm and the worlds-embracing music that emanates from these records is clear to see and hear, representing the flow of art and life they pursued together. While they traveled widely, the original center of their universe was a former school house in Southern Sweden, where “they lived according to the motto of ‘the stage as a home, and the home as a stage.’

In its interiors, a total enlivened environment evidences this principal of art and life. Clouds, dancing flames and birds animate blue walls; there are stars on the ceiling above, intricate carpets spread below, and the vibrant mandala-type silk tapestries for which Moki, who started out as a textile artist, is widely renowned. In the interflowing images of birds, snakes, swans, camels and dolphins, we identify subjects Moki explored in ceramics, while in the rays of the sun and spirals we see the serpentine forms that coil to animate her clay vessels. This proliferation of imagery finds full expression in the later collage works, at times sending up consumer culture through a sly splicing of fragments from magazine ads for jewelry, watches, beauty products and women’s fashion. A personal mode of feminism asserts itself here - “Goddesses playing it cool” - one shared with her close friend and kindred spirit, the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle. Moki modulates volume equally in visual and musical terms, as the collages range from introspective to cacophonous, even in a single work. In some there is a balancing act, as if she’s building a sculpture, a playful imagination always apparent and objects precariously placed, which we connect to her figurative ceramic forms.

The ceramics, created at Greenwich House Pottery in New York City, are mostly stoneware, iron rich clay fired at high temperatures. A few key earthenware pieces, fired at a lower heat, are notable for their brighter glazes. Here we see the delineation of forms, incisive drawing and color in full service to their interplay. Numerous mask-like ceramic pieces meant to be hung on the wall, often from rough twine appearing as braided hair, can be fierce or, with geometric face painting, welcoming. The interiors of bowls and platters feature interlocked patterns of animal, human and hybrid creatures resembling those we associate with the prehistoric rock art of the American Southwest, while the cross-pollination in her art, which also defined Organic Music, suggests multiple coordinates on an unfolding spatiotemporal map. For all the geographical and cultural time-travel in her work, Moki’s modern petroglyphs and sculpted figures are surely informed by her roots in Sweden, where the open countryside of farms, forests and their inhabitants are never far off, reinforcing the importance of folkloric tradition and its persistence. Functional ceramics that may have been used from day to day are tied into ritual in terms of food and sustenance—Moki considered cooking to be an art form, a social engagement. An undated drawing, although most likely a later statement, resounds for her creative energies across a lifetime, heightened color a sign of hopefulness and joy, with its acknowledgment of struggle and determination: “MAKE AN OFFERING TO THE GODS OF DAILY SURVIVAL.”

In 2016, Cherry’s art was the subject of a survey exhibition at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Moment - Moki Cherry, organized by Fredrik Liew. Her artwork is featured on many of Don Cherry’s albums, among them: Mu, Where Is Brooklyn?,Human Music(a 1970 collaboration with electronic musician Jon Appleton), Organic Music Society, Relativity Suite, Eternal Now, Brown Rice,and Live in Ankara 1969. The book, Moki Cherry New York Notes, compiled by Karen Edwards and Elspeth Leacock, which brings together material from the artist’s archive, was published in 2018.

Moki and Don Cherry’s school house in Tagarp, Skane, Sweden, has been preserved by her family, including her daughter Neneh Cherry, her son Eagle Eye Cherry, and her granddaughter Naima Karlsson, and opened to the public with performances this past summer, with the aim to further their legacy and embrace local community.



from September 06, 2019 to October 19, 2019

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