Sculpture Space NYC-Projects is proud to present Notions by Trevor King.This is the first solo exhibition of King's most recent project in which drawings by his grandfather act as blueprints for sculpture. The resulting forms articulate the artist's impulses towards humor, ambiguity, and momentary grace in clay. King developed this work during a fellowship at Sculpture Space NYC in 2016/2017.
(My Grandfather’s Pots)
This project began in 2011 when my grandfather, Roy Mellott, a 78 year-old retired truck driver began drawing ideas for me.
At the time, I was an art student at Slippery Rock University, a small town school in a western Pennsylvania. I became interested in pottery through the idea of gifting. I liked the thought that I could put time and effort into making a specific object, for a specific person to use and interact with in a specific way, to change that person’s experience. This has always seemed like a good way to understand what art can be— a force that manifests a transcendent moment within daily life. I began by making enormous beer mugs for my roommates.
Around this time, my grandfather began asking me a lot of questions about my artwork. He wanted to know if I was selling the things I was making, how much I would charge for them, if I wanted to set up a store, etc. His questions were open-minded and curious. He was genuinely interested. He, like many people, wasn’t quite sure how artwork was valued, or even defined, especially within our rural community.
One day, my grandfather was watching Antiques Roadshow when he saw a ceramic vase appraised at a couple thousand dollars. This gave him a simple idea— I should make that vase. He pulled open a word search book and made several sketches on the blank pages within the front and back covers, thinking that if I made that same piece, I ought to be able to sell it for the same amount.
The next time I visited, he showed me his drawings. They were loose, proud, imaginative, and much better ideas than the vase he was trying to render. I decided that what I wanted to make were the new forms he’d created.
This began an ongoing exchange between the two of us. Every now and then he would sketch a few ideas based on things he’d see on TV or dreamed up on his own. Then I would build a few forms based on his drawings, attempting to bring his line quality and unexpected ideas into three-dimensional space. This went on for several years, over which he gave me several books of drawings pulling increasingly from his own imagination.
I expect that when first seeing these objects they will ask the question: “Why did somebody make this?”
Sculpture is about transformation. Effort manipulates material and it transforms into sculpture. The question for the sculptor is “When does the work stop?” In other words, how does this material transform into an artwork? What action creates that transformation and what does that action implicitly communicate? And then how does that artwork’s being express how it feels to be a human being?
I fell into this project through making pottery, an art form that has an uncanny way of influencing the sometimes awkward and shape-shifting conundrum of how art functions in the world. When my grandfather began asking questions about sales, he was equally addressing this concept and asking, “What does culture value?” With neither of us quite able to find the answer to that question, and neither of us totally interested in it, he simply imagined his own solutions and started drawing. This is what an artist does.
My grandfather passed away in January 2016. I moved to New York City in August of that year and began a six-month residency at Sculpture Space NYC focusing on this project. In many ways this artwork is a tool for remembrance, but not only that. If there was one part of my grandfather’s spirit that I most admired, it was his ability to see the absurdity in the patterns of our lives. He held little regard for the status quo, and always insisted that there are infinite chances to intervene, to shift those patterns, to shape your own experience. By making these things I am introducing that attitude into the world.
Some of these pieces look a little bit clumsy, unfired, or “unfinished.” This is intentional. Once the pieces are built, they are fired and then painted to look this way. I think of it as “forever clay.” I had the paint formulated by taking a lump of clay to Home Depot’s painting department where they matched it using a colorimeter. Eggshell and satin sheen work the best for creating the illusion of softness and malleability.
The soft quality of clay is probably so evocative because it makes gestures so clear. Sometimes it’s hard to see the effects of actions, but in working with clay, actions become absolutely visible. Clay itself is a formless mass, a modeling material for testing ideas, and whatever you do with it is the record of your action. There is some sublime humanness in that.
-Trevor King, January 30, 2018