Tony Marsh | True North 

Tony Marsh: True North
October 25–December 21, 2019
Opening reception: Friday, October 25, 6–9PM

Koenig & Clinton is thrilled to present True North, Tony Marsh’s first one-person exhibition with the Gallery. Comprised of recent ceramic sculptures from the artist’s Crucibles, Cauldrons, and Moon Jars  series, the installation introduces three bodies of work that Marsh has developed over the past decade. As evidenced by the exhibition’s title as well as the works on view, Marsh possesses an intrinsic faith in natural phenomena: Even if we are able to indentify patterns and cycles in the Earth’s rhythms, an aspect of the unknown remains. 

In the long history of ceramic production, the medium has often been associated with functional vessels. Standard ceramic production relies upon rigid chemical constraints to wrangle the physical vagaries of wet clay. Consistent procedures yield reproducible results. Marsh maintains some of these references as he sculpts his foundational shapes, but he’s also spent the better part of his career deconstructing and delimiting the vessel form. Most recently, he has purposely detourned traditional techniques to circumvent the virtuosity of predictable outcomes. What happens next is a dance between skill and chance, mastery and surrender.

In his Crucibles and Cauldrons series, Marsh focuses on the exterior of the vessel by reworking the surface and forgoing any decorative impulse towards iconography or motif. Layer by layer, he builds the rough strata of each vessel with mineral concoctions, pigments, and glazes that are subjected to successive firings. The Crucible series are fired right-side up in the kiln as each obdurate work seems to harden into shape, while his Cauldron series are fired upside down, which encourages the glazes to flow and drip against gravity. These surface treatments meld or react to one another, yielding unexpected if not to say unmanageable results. Many works don’t survive the process. In those that do, one might discover a small stowaway in the basin, a souvenir of alchemical transformation.

Similarly Marsh focuses on the exteriors of the Moon Jars by building out small uniform platform shelves upon which he then rests fabricated and found glass and ceramic objects of varying colors. The resulting array of uneven ledges that encase each grey vessel references the frieze of ancient Greek vases which were typically depicted flat narrative content or geometric pattern. Rather than depicting a fable, Marsh instead fashions a sculptural and symbolic space through the arrangement of various minerals. Like all of his works, they carry a psychic charge. That which has survived, emanates – the alchemical precipitate of artistry and intangible material properties. 

TONY MARSH (b. 1954, New York City, NY) earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1978 from California State University in Long Beach, CA before traveling to Mashiko, Japan to apprentice at Shimaoka Pottery with Tatsuzo Shimaoka, who became a National Living Treasure. From 1983 to 1985, Marsh was the Director of the Mendocino Art Center Ceramics Program, and then became a lecturer at California State University, Long Beach. In 1988, he earned a Master of Fine Arts from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University; and in 1989, Marsh began teaching at California State University, Long Beach, where is continues to be a faculty member in the Ceramics Department, and is the director of the Center for Contemporary Ceramics. Marsh’s work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions at galleries such as Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin, TX; Harvey Meadows Gallery, Aspen, CO; Hedge Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Frank Lloyd Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; and Pierre Marie Giraud Gallery, Brussels, Belgium. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Art & Design, New York, NY; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Long Beach Museum of Art, CA; Chapman University, Orange, CA; San Jose Museum of Art, CA; Contemporary Museum of Honolulu, HI; Minneapolis Institute for the Arts, MI; Newark Museum, NJ; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Toronto, Canada; Takumi Folk Art Gallery, Tokyo, Japan; and Taipei Ceramics Museum, Taiwan, among others. He is the recipient of numerous residencies and awards including the Cheongju International Craft Bienale, Korea (2015) and the Northern Clay Center Minneapolis, MN Artist in Residence (2005). He frequently lectures and hosts workshops internationally. Marsh lives and works in Los Angeles. 

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