Doing it wrong: Cherry and Martin's new ceramics show upends convention

try again, fail again, fail better
Cherry and Martin's 2732 space in Culver City presents 'Try again. Fail again. Fail better.', a four-person ceramics show that upends typical assumptions about what counts as technical mastery.
(Image credit: Cherry and Martin, Jeff Elstone)

A group exhibition of ceramics at Los Angeles’ Cherry and Martin (opens in new tab) gallery takes its cue from Samuel Beckett’s 1983 prose piece 'Worstward Ho', embracing the possibilities of success in deliberate failure. But unlike Silicon Valley’s recent adoption of the text’s soundbite phrase, 'Fail better,' (opens in new tab) the fire-hardened sculptures — with slumping edges and irregular glazes — present a three-dimensional range of things coaxed into going wrong, including a precarious totem of vases from the artist William J O’Brien (opens in new tab), whose solo survey exhibition (opens in new tab) was at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago last year. Across the gallery’s 2732 space in Culver City (opens in new tab), the four-person show, 'Try again. Fail again. Fail better.', both expands the ongoing vogue for work in clay and collapses it, by upending assumptions about what counts as technical mastery.

'I like how ceramics reveal every action you take, every decision you take', says Katy Cowan (opens in new tab), whose slip-cast hammers and crowbars blur the line between studio tool and result. Failure, she adds, 'is funny in terms of a ceramics show' because it is a medium with 'so many right ways and wrong ways of doing things, and so many restrictions that you don’t have to follow, but people still do'. True to the anti-authoritarian theme of the show, the works in the exhibition are united in rebellion but not cause. Using a Japanese method, 'ishihaze', the name of which translates to 'stone explosion', three works by Takuro Kuwata (opens in new tab) push the boundaries of aesthetic control. The clay forms appear to burst from their candy-colored shells, some dotted with gold or platinum lustre, the once-molten contents suspended, as ever, between intention and accident, somewhere in mid-escape.

Other work is even more candid in the revelation of decisions gone stunningly awry. Wallpaper* Handmade (opens in new tab) collaborator Adam Silverman (opens in new tab), in a counterpart to his more studied explorations of proportion, presents rock-like forms and a wheel-thrown work made complete only by the object partially responsible for its failure — an actual electric kiln serving as a pedestal of sorts for the matte blue pieces to which it is fused by errant glaze. 'I think working with clay is really the gambler’s art,' says Silverman, noting that a certain 'reptilian' surface now present in his work initially came about when he had to grind hardened minerals off a kiln shelf, creating 'scars of the glaze'.

'Some people spend their lives trying to control every aspect of it, to master the material, like a very formal gardener might try to control nature. I prefer to embrace the volatility of the materials and the methods,' he says. 'Honestly, almost every breakthrough that I have had in my work has been the result of a mistake or of a wild gamble.'

pair of works by Takuro Kuwata

A pair of works by Takuro Kuwata pushes the boundaries of aesthetic control.

(Image credit: Cherry and Martin, Jeff Elstone)

Kuwata manipulates

Kuwata manipulates porcelain using a Japanese technique that loosely translates as 'stone explosion' (left), while Adam Silverman shows a wheel-thrown stoneware work, with an actual electric kiln serving as its pedestal (right).

(Image credit: Cherry and Martin/Jeff Elstone (left) and Cherry and Martin/Brian Forrest (right))

 fire-hardened sculptures

The showcase of fire-hardened sculptures presents a three-dimensional range of things intentionally coaxed into going wrong. 

(Image credit: Cherry and Martin, Brian Forrest)

artwork on display by Adam Silverman, 2015.

Untitled, by Adam Silverman, 2015. 

(Image credit: Cherry and Martin, Brian Forrest)

created by Adam Silverman

Untitled, by Adam Silverman, 2015.

(Image credit: Cherry and Martin, Brian Forrest)

A precarious totem

A precarious totem of vases from the artist William J O’Brien, who had a solo survey exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago last year.

(Image credit: Cherry and Martin, Brian Forrest)

Untitled, by William J O’Brien

Untitled, by William J O’Brien, 2014.

(Image credit: Cherry and Martin, Brian Forrest)

Crowbars and wrenches variation

Crowbars and wrenches variation, by Katy Cowan, 2015

(Image credit: Cherry and Martin, Brian Forrest)

two by four

Two by Four and Donuts and Hammers variation, by Katy Cowan,  2015.

(Image credit: Cherry and Martin, Brian Forrest)

ADDRESS

2732 South La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles
CA 90034

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