This was the first time I have made it to SOFA in NY and in my lucky disposition I was able to make it in for the set up. Interestingly enough, upon arrival 29 hours before the VIP preview opening on Wednesday, lights were not yet hung, people had just begun painting and the isles were still exposing the worn wood floor. By 3pm that same day, I saw the first pieces of artwork out and all of the isles were cluttered with boxes, pallets and peanuts.
When I came back Friday to see the show, there was not a sign in sight of the set-up except for the faint smell of wall paint that added to the clean gallery set up of the space. Ferrin Gallery was the first you saw when you walked in on your left with bold red walls. Chris Antemann had a large presence, as well as Molly Hatch (an avid blogger as well as an artist). On the right of the entrance was more ceramic work represented Joan B. Mirviss Gallery who focuses on contemporary Japanese work. The two booths represented the wide spectrum of ceramics with the masculine stoneware works by Akiyama Yo on one side and the feminine porcelain works on the other.
Clare Beck at Adrienne Sassoon was represented as usual with big artists like Kate Malone, Felicity Aylieff and Michael Eden. In an interview with SOFA's Mark Lyman he expresses his opinion about the high standard of New York's SOFA as compared to Sante Fe or Chicago because of the smaller venue. The Clarke Beck at Adrienne Sassoon was a god example of this. It was refreshing to see such a well ran space with remarkable work from a variety of artists representing very different aesthetics. Another great aspect was that the gallery had the artists there to discuss the work. I dare say that Adrienne Sassoon has some of the best business practices of all the global ceramic focused galleries.
Ornamentum had a solo at SOFA by Jennifer Trask's ornamental work. Her piece "Acanthus" was also used for a significant amount of the marketing material. Her work was well crafted and represented the simply ideology of beauty. The downfall is one may look at her jewelry work and consider it unwearabl, though on the contrary I witnessed a woman trying it on. I was worried about the weight of the piece, the construction, clasping mechanism, I was even scared for the man putting it around this women's neck. Yet she allowed her curls to fall and the piece looked beautiful on her. It was bold and heavy yet still kept the charm and richness of the porcelain.
Other contemporary ceramics to note included Bonnie Seeman represented by Duane Read Gallery. These popular works are made of glazed porcelain with added lamp worked glass details. Maria Elena Kravits represented rising NY artist Bob Clyatt, who is also having a spotlight at An American Craftsman Gallery in Manhattan. Next Step Gallery and Studio (a gallery getting quite a bit of publicity quickly) represented figurative works by artists Joan Rassmussen, Kaiser Suidan and Mark Chatterly. Mark Chattery a Michigan artist is also is having an exhibit at the well established Clay Art Center in Port Chester NY. Christie Brown's figurative doll like rabbit sculptures were represented by Contemporary Applied Arts. While the intriguingly morbid scull like heads of Catrin Howell were represented by Joanna Bird.
In an article by Art Info a collector was quoted saying the following: "The quality has fallen off," groused one disappointed American collector who felt SOFA had dumbed down for commercial reasons alone. "They have third-rate stuff here," continued the ceramics collector who steadfastly declined to be identified. "Is this a show for collectors," she asked, "or is this a show for shoppers?" I would argue with the collectors comment of the quality of the work, but I would agree that works tended to be smaller then I expected, most likely because of galleries were accommodating to a less financially stable market. I believe there was a wide variety of ceramic works, some more well crafted then others. Some were masculine, others feminine. Everything including abstract creations, vessels and figurative works were represented in the ceramic field. Even traditional wood fired ceramics had a place, juxtaposed against brightly painted low fire glazes. After all was said and done artist Bob Cylatt said it best "Everyone works very hard at making it all look easy." This statement applies to both the representing galleries and the artist's work.