I've been thinking about new ways to make pauses, spaces and silences, where breath is held inside and between each vessel, between the objects and the vitrines, the vitrines and the room. In working with the vessel, working with porcelain, and with colors that express the great history of Oriental ceramics, but also the colors of modernism and minimalism; this seems to be enough material to be getting on with.
—Edmund de Waal
Gagosian Gallery is pleased to announce new work by Edmund de Waal. This is his first exhibition with the gallery.
Atemwende comprises a series of vitrines containing thrown porcelain vessels arranged in specific groupings. From simple pairs of pots to complex multitudes in their hundreds, these minimalist dichotomies in black and white suggest the sequences and patterns of a musical score, while titles cite the poetry of Paul Celan, Wallace Stevens and others.
De Waal's art speaks to his enduring fascination with the nature of objects and the attendant history of their collection and display. His poignant memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010) is a family biography whose recurring motif through five generations is a large collection of netsuke. A potter since childhood and an acclaimed writer, de Waal’s studies of the history of ceramics have taken him from ancient Japan to late modernism. Confronting European and Asian traditions of intimate craftsmanship with the scale and sequence of minimalist art and music, his new ensembles evoke at once the delicate measure of Agnes Martin's sublime abstract paintings, and the rhythmic pulses of the music of Philip Glass and Steve Reich.
De Waal's desire to transcend utilitarian pottery was evident in his transition during the 1980s from clay to more refined porcelain, a medium that demands acute focus of mind and eye as well as a swift hand. A new audacity is expressed in the sheer number of pots and their arrangement. Impact is achieved through scale and multiplicity, yet the subtle iterations of the handmade process are maintained.
The exhibition title derives from Paul Celan’s 1967 poetry collection Atemwende (“breathturn”), a term that the poet equates with the moment when words transcend literal meaning. Set in series and sequences, the pots possess their own evocative power, appearing as characters that touch and huddle, or face isolation. Each of the four large vitrines, breathturn I-IV (all works 2013), holds hundreds of pots, while individual objects and smaller clusters sit within wall-mounted boxes, girders, and brackets (black field I-III and I am their music), evoking the ascetic constructions of Donald Judd and Giorgio Morandi’s communities of everyday vessels on canvas. By setting intimate handmade works in fabricated aluminum vitrines, de Waal produces a formal tension between tradition and innovation that imbues the mastery of an ancient medium with a bold new narrative.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by Adam Gopnik.
Edmund de Waal was born in Nottingham, United Kingdom in 1964, and lives and works in London. His work has been shown and collected by museums throughout the world, including Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt; National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh; and Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Recent solo museum exhibitions include “Edmund de Waal,” Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge and Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Cambridge (2007); “Edmund de Waal: Signs & Wonders,” Victoria & Albert Museum, London (2009); and “Edmund de Waal at Waddesdon,” Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom (2012). His acclaimed memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes was the winner of the Costa Biography Award in 2010 and is an international best-seller.
Artist to Artist: Edmund de Waal and Theaster Gates
Join the artists for an extended conversation about their most recent exhibitions, their forebears in the world of ceramics, and the key role that history plays in their practices.
Edmund de Waal: some winter pots
Join the artist in his ceramics studio as he describes the impetus behind his exhibition in London and the importance of touch in the creation of these new works.
Edmund de Waal: cold mountain clay
At his studio in London, Edmund de Waal speaks about his new body of work, created in the silence and solitude of lockdown. Composed of layers of porcelain slip inscribed with lines of verse by the poet Hanshan, these works are presented in cold mountain clay, de Waal’s first exhibition in Hong Kong.
Edmund de Waal: psalm
Edmund de Waal speaks with Alison McDonald about the components of psalm, his two-part project in Venice. He details the influences behind the exhibition and reveals some of his hopes for the project.
Rainer Maria Rilke: Duino Elegies
Bobbie Sheng explores the symbiotic relationship between the poet and visual artists of his time and tracks the enduring influence of his poetry on artists working today.
Cast of Characters
James Lawrence explores how contemporary artists have grappled with the subject of the library.
Extended through January 30, 2021
Edmund de Waal
some winter pots
December 3, 2020–January 30, 2021
Davies Street, London