Salon 94


David Benjamin Sherry featured as an Art Forum Critic’s Pick!

"This salon-style hanging of David Benjamin Sherry's work is made up of a profusion of paradoxes—campy landscapes manipulated in the darkroom, punk-inspired portraiture, and an enormous sculpture of a Kelvin thermometer—that require an investment in slowness, a willingness to consider how potent social commentary can emerge from the meandering crevices of a mountain."

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SFAQ Pick: “Satan Ceramics,” group exhibition at Salon 94 Freemans, New York.

Now on view at Salon 94 Freemans, a group exhibition titled “Satan Ceramics” features new ceramic work from New York-based artists Mary Frey, Pat McCarthy, JJ PEET and Tom Sachs. The artists meet weekly at the 92nd Street Y and create ceramic sculpture together under the instruction of appointed group leader JJ PEET. Even without an overt statement that the group shares any particular set of philosophies, motivations, or intentions, their communal practice and their experimentation with fundamental forms (vessels, tools, tablets, etc.) is enough to inspire curiosity and speculation.

Many works in the show are united by attempts to push contemporary practices and priorities into physical structures typically associated with traditional, even ritual uses. Tom Sachs’ tea bowls bear the marks of creation by hand, while their carefully painted letters form NASA’s original logo. Contemporary imagery spills onto Mary Frey’s otherwise timeless forms; characters from The Simpsons ornament a rectangular form that presents itself as something between ceremonial treasure and TV tray. Pat McCarthy’s pigeon-keeping accoutrements (perches and nesting bowls) take their inspiration from a centuries-old practice, and their aesthetic from a contemporary understanding of system and arrangement. Located at various points along a spectrum of irony and sincerity, the sculptural works of “Satan Ceramics” employ time-tested forms and aesthetic codes to represent the particularities of the present.

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The Devil is in the Details

A year ago, Tom Sachs casually mentioned to Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn that he’d begun making ceramics, so she invited him up to her E. 94th Street outpost, Salon 94, to talk about their mutual fascination with clay. “He came to look at the more historic ceramics I had and he started telling me he was in this small little class with JJ Peet at the 92nd Street Y,” recalls Greenberg Rohatyn. “One of the reasons he was using the kiln there is because it’s actually one of the only high fire kilns in New York City that produces a white porcelain.” At the time Peet, a master ceramicist in his own right, was also teaching the artists Mary Frey and Pat McCarthy, who, along with Sachs, would go on to form an informal ceramics community playfully known as Satan Ceramics—which is also the title of the show of their work opening at Salon 94 Freemans. “When Tom showed me what the other students were doing alongside JJ we had to show them together,” says Greenberg Rohatyn. “They were in such a dialogue and so united.”

As a sort of penance for neglecting to make tea ceremony bowls for his 2012 Mars installation at the Park Avenue Armory, Sachs has spent the past year making hundreds of hand-turned chawan-style bowls emblazoned with red painted NASA logos. (There are some “Chanel” versions, too.) He’s also presenting a ceramic boombox and a Duchampian urinal. Peet has created several cups that have a porcelain knife cutting through them, drawing a thin line between violence and civility.  Frey, who takes a deep interest in the surface of her ceramics, has decked a 1975 Hobie-inspired skateboard with a bespectacled nude drawn by her son Arsun when he was seven. Meanwhile, McCarthy has integrated his pigeoning practice into his clay work by crafting minimalist coops outfitted with electricity and feeding vessels.

“There’s a refinement you’re going to see with this painted white porcelain,” says Greenberg Rohatyan. “But there’s also tons of humor, rebellion, and this utopian idea that they’ve chosen a community around this activity.”

David Benjamin Sherry featured in Aperture

"Looking closely at the wall labels in “What is a Photograph?,” a visitor would discover that the works in this show were nearly all unique objects — a remarkable thing to consider for an exhibition that takes up photography, a medium once defined as the very essence of mechanical reproducibility. Further, most of these “photographs” thoroughly efface any reference to what may have once stood before a lens: the intensely saturated David Benjamin Sherry photographs, for instance, resemble fields of paint strokes more than landscapes; Travess Smalley’s scanned collages, unique prints on heavy wove paper, look more like psychedelic Matisse cut-outs than records of something that existed before a camera; same with the works of Alison Rossiter, who processes and exposes old 35mm film stock, with the resulting images resembling blurred, hazy ink-drawings (with no visible subject matter.)"

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