November 11, 2017–January 27, 2018
The installation of Adam Silverman’s current exhibition at Cherry and Martin is immediately striking. A circle cut through the gallery’s dividing wall, à la Gordon Matta-Clark, becomes a proscenium through which a promenade is constructed. This elevated pathway consists of darkly stained railroad ties supported by concrete-block posts upon which the ceramic cast of the artist’s current exhibition, Ghosts, resides. For those familiar with previous installations of the Los Angeles-based potter’s work, the architectural staging may not surprise (a reflection of his architecture background), but the evolution of his sculptural forms just might. The potter’s approach to throwing pottery might be considered rather traditional, and Silverman readily acknowledges that he purposely operates at the intersection of craft, fine art and design. Less traditional are the complex surfaces of his vessels, which he achieves through layered manipulations of glaze and ash in multiple kiln firings. The result is a spectacular array of finishes, ranging from thickly mottled cherry-blossom pinks to silky radiant cobalt blues to the roughly stained earth tones which dominate the current exhibition.
The territory Silverman explores here represents a “tectonic shift” in his approach, from formal luxuriance to monochromatic austerity. The rough-hewn forms of the vessels echo the explorations of midcentury pioneers Peter Voulkos and John Mason, fused with the Japanese aesthetic of mono no aware. Silverman’s process begins on the wheel, as did the ceramist’s previous incarnations, but here things might seem to go awry—at least from the pottery’s point of view. From careful shaping to aggressive pushing, punching and even taking up a baseball bat, the once smoothly-rounded vessels are now a bedraggled lot. In several instances, the sutured wounds are more pronounced than the initial damage. Both haunting and sublime, Silverman’s Ghosts are not peaceful spirits, but battle-scarred souls, akin to Jacob Marley or the hungry ghosts of Buddhist lore. Their present aesthetic provides evidence of a turbulent history. Paradoxically, what might initially read as imperfections—drips, cracks, bumps and scars—become symbols of perseverance.