Ceramic Alchemy: Gerit Grimm at the Long Beach Museum of Art
New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz once said that the alchemy of good curating amounts to placing one work of art near another, leaving each intact, and in the process creating a third thing. This third thing and the two original things then trigger cascades of thought and reaction. I was reminded of this idea after viewing the wonderful exhibition Gerit Grimm: Beyond the Figurine now running at the Long Beach Museum of Art through July 8th.
In this enjoyable exhibit the Long Beach Museum of Art drew on their extensive collection of over 100 Staffordshire Earthenware Ceramics and, over 90 French faience ceramics, representing over 250 years of ceramic production. The Museum then asked contemporary ceramic artist Gerit Grimm to create works inspired by the collection. In the final production Grimm creates an alternative terrene and narrative using a large-scale response to the petite figurines displayed throughout the museums lower level. Grimm’s muted stoneware figures consist of peddlers of all sorts, bulbous shade trees, and a guillotine where a recent removed head peers back at the viewer, while executioners prepare another for the same fate. Grimm’s reply to the museum’s collection is a more melancholic, and delightfully satisfying turn. A nice juxtaposition to the petite figurines colorful tales of Old and New Testament Bible stories, traditional fables, and socio-political events of their times.
It’s not often that one is caught by surprise in the art world these days. But this delightful exhibit does a great job of presenting a rich ceramic history, an inquisitive present, and prompts several considerations of what still may be possible with the figurine. I believe Jerry Saltz would agree that the Long Beach Museum of Art, and Gerit Grimm, nailed all three acts.