Arlene Shechet: Art 21
Arlene Shechet will tell you - just like she said on this season of the award-winning series ART21: she must have a penchant for the hideous since that’s the lot of a utilitarian material such as clay. The key to her aesthetic is the romantic balance of imperfection and timing, knowing when to add to a piece and when to leave it alone and she often leaves traces of the art-making process and tools used in her large-scale sculptures.
In retracing the steps of Shechet’s journey, a residency at the 300-year-old Meissen factory in Germany underlines her interest in the alchemy of clay and porcelain, rather than the pristine ornaments typically produced as a result. The Rhode Island School of Design has described Shechet’s work as follows: “Shechet’s range of sculpture brings to the fore the seams, plate impressions, indentations, inventory numbers and other evidence of the industrial process that an 18th-centry Meissen craftsman would have sought to erase.”
Also disarming about Shechet’s sculpture is how the imperfections that come with her approach are inextricably linked to her choice in medium. As with any raw material, clay has its limitations and can only be added to and reshaped at specific points during its formation. There appears to be a perfect moment for everything, and for this artist, the make-up of clay is such that it’s both unforgiving and malleable: it’s honest at every stage of its composition.
Watch Season 7 of ART21 “Art in the Twenty-First Century” for more about Shechet and 11 additional artists from around the world. Full episodes can be viewed online; check your local listings or contact your local PBS station for information on re-broadcasts.
Shechet received a BA from New York University, and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (1978). She has received many honors, among them an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award (2011); Anonymous Was A Woman Individual Artist Award (2010); Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant (2010); Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2004); Artist Fellowship Grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts (1999, 1993, 1986); and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1986-87). Major exhibitions of her work have appeared at the Phillips Collection (2014); RISD Museum (2014); Weatherspoon Art Museum (2013); Anderson Gallery, Richmond (2012); Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (2012); International Ceramic Biennial (2010); Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (2009); Tang Museum (2009); ICA Philadelphia (2004); Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (2004); Henry Art Gallery (2003); and the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (2000). Arlene Shechet lives and works in New York and Woodstock, New York.
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