RITUAL

NO SIMPLE MATTER

by alma eliot

What happens when a ritual meets reinvention? Theoretically, these ideas cross paths only occasionally. The question has been on our minds since seeing Porcelain, No Simple Matter, an exhibition of antique Meissen and contemporary porcelains at the Frick Collection in Manhattan. Through a mash-up of old and new, No Simple Matter proves that ritual and reinvention can merge, delivering topsy-turvy, delightful, and mind-expanding results. (That’s a combination that To Whom It May-ers relish, we might mention!)

For the show, the contemporary artist Arlene Shechet selected close to one hundred antique porcelain plates and vessels from a collection promised to the Frick. Rather than presenting them by chronology or theme, she chose to display them in an expressionistic, visually striking arrangement, offering a fresh perspective on a tradition we thought we knew.

Also among the porcelains are examples of Shechet’s own work, created at the famous Meissen porcelain factory four years ago. As an artist on site at Meissen, Shechet examined not only the finished product of the porcelain, but also its process of creation. Turning the manufacture inside out, Shechet reveals the stagehand objects of porcelain production. The best example of this approach may be the bowl she crafted based on a mold from the factory, itself used to create a bowl. In another design, she reassembles parts from the creation process into a chopped-and-screwed porcelain object.

Rituals are the wayfinders of daily life, marking intervals of time and experience. But No Simple Matter is a visual treat that makes the case that even a familiar tradition can be renewed or reexamined.

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Porcelain, No Simple Matter: Arlene Shechet and the Arnhold Collection is on display May 24, 2016 to April 2, 2017 at the Frick Collection in New York City.

Photo: Africanus Okokon
 

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