A Review by Judith Tolnick Champa

Article excerpt

THE CALIFORNIA-BASED, RENOWNED CERAMIST DAVID Furman showed selections of his 2010-2012 production from 2 October -3 November, 2012 in Lincoln, Massachusetts at the Clark Gallery. It was an astonishing presentation. Work from the studio, or better, a representation distilling an artist's work in that space--the nature of that, the residue of that and its controlled disarray--such is the apparent, overt nature of Furman's ceramic art objects. But they offer much more. These objects seem everywhere to build upon the history of art in its many guises.

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Furman is a master of trompe l'oeil ceramics, frequently a maker of utilitarian, 'true-to-life' scaled works in three dimensions as well as other objects, more fancifully pictorial but equally trornpe, conceived as wall reliefs. In the Lincoln exhibition, still life subject matter tended to be pencils, crayons, brushes, or the entire evocative range of tools for pondering, making and installing work in the studio. These tools convincingly occupy what appear to be actual tin cans, or wooden file drawers, or shaped toolkits. In four other instances in this exhibition, The Act of Drawing, Formal Formality, Pencil Perspective and Table Setting for Art's Sake, the simulacrum of drawing boards (literally paper taped on a plywood board) is Furman's ground that variously presents his designs with primitive perspectival patterns or, in one instance, a planar, rectilinear array of individual units suggesting the arrangement of a watercolour tray and pencils new and stubby. Another wall work, The Remains of the Day, is vertically oriented and the most tableau-like. Upon its seemingly plywood ground, paint marks, stamps and drawing elements read as a penetratingly deconstructed abstract painting by Miro, a tribute by a like-minded surrealist several generations removed.

Inevitably and fundamentally, Furman's work conjures the iconic Painted Bronze sculptures of 1960 by Jasper Johns, the neo-dada pair of oil painted Ballantine Ale cans and the Savarin Coffee tin holding paintbrushes. With Johns, however, the bronze nature of the objects is foremost, even in his titles. Also in Johns' approach a vernacular metal translated to 'high end' bronze is made to express, at a sly remove, the surrogate artist in the studio. With Furman, in contrast, "ceramic, underglaze, glaze, lustre and enamel" are his consistent media, so his trompe-ness, his fooling, is seamless and comprehensive. Furman is of the generation of cerarnists well aware of current and late trompe l'oeil practitioners Marilyn Levine, Richard Shaw and Victor Spinski, among others, but he stands distinctively apart from them, as well.

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There is abundant self-knowledge and knowledge of the history of art in this long-term teaching ceramist (now Professor Emeritus at the Claremont Colleges in California). …