Josh DeWeese works tirelessly, combining contemporary sculptural forms with the art of chance—ongoing experimentation with a variety of different glazes and finishes fired with salt/soda processes—applied upon his ceramic pieces. I (Mark Murphy) caught up with Josh DeWeese before his exhibit to talk more about his work:
mM : When you are creating your works, are you inspired by a specific genre of music, artwork or a place that you have traveled before?
DeWeese : Specific inspirations are difficult to pin down, because they all blend together, but I have always been inspired by Asian ceramics, particularly Korean Puncheong Ware, Japanese Oribe (examples piectured above) and Shino Ware. As I reported to Mindy, I have never studied formally in Asia, but have traveled in Korea and China several times. While traveling there, I’ve made a number of connections with several Korean artists, (mostly during my time at the Archie Bray Foundation), because we had about 12 different Korean artists there during my tenure as director.
Above, Peter Voulkos, Lidded Vessel, (c. 1952-1954). Wheel thrown stoneware jar with lid decorated with applied sgraffito technique. 22” x 11.” Peter Voulkos, Large Pot, (c. 1958-1959). Stoneware vessel comprised of wheel thrown, paddled, cut and manipulated forms with decoration. 21.5”h x 15.5” x 15.” American artist of Greek decent, Peter Voulkos (1924-2002) is well known for his abstract expressionist styled ceramics sculptures. Entrapped in the process of clay-making, Voulkos developed works not with the traditional craft foundation of ceramics, but rather in an experimental way that lead him to treat the medium as pure sculpture.
DeWeese : I also studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and my teacher, Ken Ferguson, introduced us to a broad range of Asian ceramic traditions. We also had access to the Nelson Atkins Museum and it’s incredible collection. I have been influenced heavily by the work of my parents, Robert and Gennie DeWeese, who were modernist painters strongly influenced by the abstract expressionists of the 1950’s. I am as well, I have always drawn a connection between the immediacy of marks in wet clay to marks in wet paint. The work of Peter Voulkos draws on this, as well, and has always been an inspiration.
Above left, Andy Ryan photo of Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Above middle, Posset Pot, Earthenware with tin glaze and enamel 8 ¾”—Medieval teat treat, cinnamon, egg white, wine, sugar, cream, heat it, boil and sprinkle with suger. Collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Above right, Akio Takamori, Japanese, b 1950. Kanzan from ’The Laughing Monk’ series, 2006. Stoneware with underglazes. Promised gift the the Lennie and Jerry Berkowitz collection in honor of the 75th anniversary of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
mM : Select one of your favorite pieces featured in the show, and would you mind sharing a thought or two about the work :
DeWeese : I will comment on the jars, and this could apply to any of them. The current interest with my work has had to do with developing my drawing/painting to work on the three dimensional forms. I am endlessly interested in how a drawing unfolds around a form and leads the viewer to the other side. Line quality, glaze viscosity and transparency find endless variations in the atmospheric firing process and I am always eager to see what happens.
The basket forms are a technical challenge in terms of controlling the material, as in getting the clay to stand up and maintain structure in this way. I like to think of them for flowers, but also do not disagree with the comment that the handle eliminates the need for flowers. The forms have a figurative element to them, a sort of lyrical quality. Sometimes the handles feel like bones, or wisps of smoke rising in the air.
mM : How would you describe your style of work? Is there a new genre of sculptural objects that you are participating in, or is it a genre based on tradition from the past?
DeWeese : I don’t generally characterize my style as aligning with a current movement. I believe my work is rooted in the idea of pottery, drawing and an exploration of ceramic phenomena.
mM : What type of materials do you experiment with in your works?
DeWeese : I have become very interested in harvesting local ceramic materials to use in my glaze palate and have co-founded the International Wild Clay Research Project with my colleagues at Montana State University to research and develop local material sources. I find my work to be enriched and energized by the activity involved, and enjoy how the process requires building a community of interested friends to share the workload and results. I’m inspired by the potential and unique quality that can be achieved in a ceramic surface using local materials with a carefully considered processing method.
Thank you Josh DeWeese for taking time out. “Josh DeWeese, Expression in Form” opens at the Mindy Solomon Gallery Saturday, November 12 featuring 20 new works that include sculptural vessels, baskets and wall hangings. Artist reception, November 12 6—8PM featuring a insightful talk by special guest and artist, Josh DeWeese. Contact the gallery for more information or see more examples of his work here. Interview by Mark Murphy, Murphy Design.