It has been said so many times that it almost does not bear repeating: contemporary ceramics treads on the line between the medium’s functional history and fine art’s “attractive thing to view and own.” The more interesting and less asked question is how the artist rephrases the line. In the case of Tony Marsh this involves fashioning pneumonic, organic shapes that look like the body’s or nature’s detritus from the most exquisite lustres, from rich china colors or from this chalky bone-blanched clay that hints of dried archeological artifacts. The allusion to things sort of real in shapes that refer to nothing at all, to which is added colors and textures that are drop dead appealing, is further complicated by the fact that Marsh likes to place these non-usable shapes in the most precious looking “bowls/saucers.” Vessels by definition actually carry things from point A to point B, but these are done in the same spirit and style as their contents and have the sole “job” of completing an aesthetic tension. The clay shapes and the vessels holding them come together in the most charming way to reference all at once the history of the art historical two dimensional still life, the ceramics-for-your-table upscale American view of clay, those aberrant compilations of found nonsense we are all wont to gather from a walk on the beach, and finally gallery objects of luxury.
Published courtesy of ArtScene ©2009