Human: the art of Beth Cavener

The Benyamini Library has a vast and up-to-date array of very fine publications, whether on individual important international artists and international shows or other related subjects. But once in a while a very special edition lands on our table, and this is the case with the outstanding new book "Human: the art of Beth Cavener".

The book is uncompromisingly special first of all in presenting a retrospective ad hoc of this unique ceramic artist, and in the wonderful editorial work and print level of the book itself, a project by Garth Clark in conjunction with Ezra Shales, both among the foremost theoreticians in the ceramic field. Clark is a big admirer of Cavener's unique work.

Cavener's style is immediately recognizable as unique to her: she takes the animal figure to a new and totally personal place and imbues each with deeply felt and observed human characteristics, emerging often from personal traumatic experiences and encounters. Cavener says that she "turns people into caricatures", a strategy she developed from childhood to fight her fears; she makes portraits of people she observes, distilling their innermost feelings and finding a way to transfer them into the animal sculpture's expressive movements, facial expressions and subtly added human physical details, and the situations she places them in. The sculptures are also emotional "self-portraits". Cavener works a long time on each sculpture, which are often very big and complicated, often exploring one particular emotion over a few sculptures. Her way of working the surface is very expressive, giving the impression as if sculpted by big brushstrokes. This makes her human animals very expressive, seductive, sly, perturbed, and contorted. There is perfect craftsmanship. Cavener's work draws from no one, it is totally unique, and this volume honors her duly.

This newest book on the market presents us with a new category of the "potter", adapted to our age and the demands of the market. It talks of a new definition, the "ceramic designer" who is also a craftsman and a designer. The creators presented in the book come from different design disciplines but all seek to realize their project in ceramics. Their creations range from design objects to architectural murals, furniture items and more, and the big array is definitely broadening what we call ceramics today.

Beyond the Vessel: contemporary ceramics from Europe with myths, legends and tales

Another exciting book we were lucky to add to our library is the catalog of this super-interesting exhibition held last year in the Meshir Art Gallery in Istanbul. A grandiose show over three gallery floors with works ranging from individual sculptures to whole installations showed the huge diversity of what can be artistically expressed through the medium of ceramics, if in ideas and if in the wealth of old and new techniques used to bring them across.
The curators chose a powerful subject which is already explicit in the title: the artists were asked to draw from popular old and new myths, legends, folktales,children stories, dreams. Twelve top European artists who cover a big range of styles, from hyperrealism to abstraction, were chosen: Sam Bakewell, Bertozzi & Casoni, Vivian van Blerk, Christie Brown, Phoebe Cummings, Bouke de Vries, Malene Hartmann Rasmussen, Klara Kristalova, Elsa Sahal, Kim Simonsson, Carolein Smit, Jørgen Haugen Sørensen, Hugo Wilson
Their work is at times eerie, horrifying, phantasmagorical, scatological, mystical, or referencing primal childhood fears, using dark metaphors. This show blurs completely the craft/art controversy, and in my opinion the only weak point is in the title, in which the curators still come across as apologetically for the use of clay by naming the show "Beyound the Vessel". In this show we are light years away from the ceramic container, this is in the realm of art.
The book itself is produced in an interesting way: the curators decided not only to show photos of the work on exhibition, but as well the artist in the studio and provide us with an interview with each artist on his special trajectory and ideas. The book thus is divided by each artist. For people like me who unfortunately did not see this important show, the book is a valuable document, not a replacement, which a catalog can never be.

Centering: in pottery, poetry and the person, by M.C Richards

A 25th anniversary edition of the iconic book that was popular in the sixties-seventies in America. Richards was a kind of ceramic guru, a poet that recognized centering on the wheel as something much deeper with an effect of centering one's life. She lived her artistic life as a total experience and was a renowned and respected ceramist in her time.

The Shape of Craft: by Ezra Shales

This new book by Ezra Shales, professor of History of Art, examines the relevance of Craft in the modern world and its unexpected broad meaning. It is about how things get made, from hand-made objects to microbreweries. An examination of what we mean when we think about a craft object, how that shapes our understanding of what craft is, what are our typical expectations of what we think is handcrafted and authentic.

A Theory of Craft: function and aesthetic expression

Another important book examining critically what is craft, how does it distinguish itself from Art or Design? Howard Risatti, Professor of art history, describes craft's nature uniquely blending function with a deeper expression of human values tha transcends culture, time, and space.

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