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curated by Nina Felshin
October 9 – November 8, 2015
opening October 9 from 7-9 pm
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Viewing hours: Friday 2-6 PM, Saturday and Sunday 1–6PM, and by appointment

244 N 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(T) 917 754 3267
ventana244.org | ventana244@gmail.com

Ventana 244: is pleased to present (self contained), ), a group exhibition curated by Nina Felshin, which includes work by Ann Agee, Kathy Butterly, Tony Feher, Elise Siegel, and Robin Winters.

(self contained) includes the work of Ann Agee, Kathy Butterly, Tony Feher, Elise Siegel, and Robin Winters, and explores two notions of the vessel: as a container of meaning—a holder of something non-material—capable of evoking human and conceptual presence; and as a person into whom some quality or emotion is infused. Embodying disparate styles and sensibilities, the work in this show is united by its inventive evocations of these ancient concepts..

Pandora's box—which contained all the evils of the world, as well as hope—is one conceptual starting point for this show. In the original Greek myth, the vessel that Pandora opened was a jar, but in the 16th century Erasmus mistranslated the Greek word for jar (pithos) in his Latin translation of Hesiod's story. Another starting point is the pair of large urns in Homer's Iliad that stand on the floor of Zeus's palace, one filled with evil gifts—our miseries—and the other with good gifts—our blessings.

The most metaphorical of the vessels in the show are Elise Siegel's two ceramic portrait busts. Answering to the second notion of vessel above, they are imbued with uncanny expressions of emotion, which are reinforced by variations in modeling and glazing techniques. The English writer Thomas Hardy described the eponymous heroine of his novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles as "a mere vessel of emotion untinctured by experience." Siegel's medium, clay, in its unformed state, is a stand-in for Hardy's untinctured emotion.

While Siegel's busts are metaphorical vessels, Tony Feher's Untitled Work of 2003, 2003, uses actual vessels—mass-produced clear plastic soda bottles, each topped with a colorful cap and partially filled with water. A length of wire is twisted around the neck of each bottle and attached to a long rope. Suspended diagonally across the room, the rope dips in the center. What for one person might suggest a creative deployment of minimally transformed yet magically anthropomorphized found objects, for another might evoke "strange fruit" or, as the artist himself observed recently, refugees migrating in sea-going vessels or making their way on land.

The artworks of Kathy Butterly and Ann Agee are quite different in appearance, but both artists, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, make sculptures that evoke female sexuality. Both primarily use porcelain, a strong, tough material that simultaneously connotes feminine grace and delicacy. This combination of qualities comes through in the work as an expression of self-confidence.

The flowers and plant life that protrude from Ann Agee's gynecoid vase forms are reminiscent of Karl Blossfeldt's photographic flower studies as well as retro ladies' swim caps. These pistil-packing flowers also evoke female reproductive organs. Could the dynamic sense of movement created by the placement of flowers around the basic form be a winking homage to Bernini and Baroque sculpture? And is it possible that the absence of color in these two sculptures serves as a playful challenge to viewers to project their own associations?

For Kathy Butterly"the weight of color," as she puts it, produced by many layers of glaze, is key to her content. She is, in fact, a collector of glazes. In an interview with Stephanie Buhmann, Butterly said of Color Hoard-r, 2013, in this show, that "the work almost functions as a straightforward self-portrait: a stockpiler of color." Her pint-size sculptures—cast from a pint glass—are exuberant, often whimsically sexy (Just for Men, 2009, in this show, e.g.), and almost always outrageous in their excess. One might think of them as abstracted figures, embodiments of concerns and interests that shape her world at a given time.

In the early 1990s, while in residence at the Val Saint Lambert glass factory in Belgium, Robin Winters produced a series of transparent blown glass sculptures that humorously synthesized the portrait bust and the vase form. He called some of them Vitro Vivo, or "live glass." Each wore a hat; each suggested a version of Everyman. His earlier work had included images of sailboats, another kind vessel. And there is at least one drawing of a face with a sailboat on its head. This body of work by Winters was a major impetus for (self contained). The show includes his bronze sculpture Smokestack Lighter than Air, 1990, in which a miniature beach ball sits on the neck of a vase that is also a face. Two heads, perhaps, are better than one.

All the works in (self contained) invite a viewer to fill them with her own experiences, emotions, socio-political and cultural contexts, resulting in a highly personal and poetic encounter.

Nina Felshin