this exhibit has ended

Simone Kearney: Criers

Gallery hours: Friday–Sunday, 1–7 pm

Criers is a sequence of mostly unglazed ceramic sculptures depicting crying heads. Sometimes the clay of the sculptures is unfired, ready to dissolve back into unshaped materiality; sometimes it is fired, where expression has become petrified; sometimes a face or tear is tangible with stone; sometimes transformed into a glazed shard. Clay, as the primary material for these sculptures, emphasizes crying as radically elemental and acutely physical. In crying, the body is laying claim to the event. Sometimes, the clay serves as a means to express and represent an emotion, where a discernible face emerges from the material. At other times, the expression is subsumed by the very material used to convey it. And so here we see a wrestle between material and language, between sense and raw fact, between what we can decipher as something namable (a tear, a face, etc.), and what is otherwise simply churned, thumbed stuff. Crying itself also often marks a moment of such points of confluence and rupture, where the interior, and all the intangible, invisible, immaterial “stuff” of emotion, breaks through onto the surface of the body. Crying can be the manifestation of surplus: just as an emotion seems at times to surpasses the confines of the subjectivity that houses it, the body too exceeds itself with tears.

Criers tracks the ways in which emotions that give way to crying might renew themselves repeatedly (many heads for many moments), while also showing how certain emotions blow the individual open. Emotion surges beyond the perimeters of self. One crier is always many criers. And so here, there is not one individual crier evoking an individual crier. This is a chorus, perhaps even one might call them an army, of criers. Not limited in their expression of a singular emotion – they can contain multitudes. Moreover, they transcend any one individual experience, including that of the artist. Particularly in this time of global pandemic, war, and ecological catastrophe, they gather to mourn or howl or sing as company. In a world so often characterized by capitalist demands of efficiency and good performance, emotions such as grief, surprise, or even wonder can be disruptive. These criers thus stall that which is otherwise run of the mill. They are as rocks that block the cogs in the wheel. They repel the smooth. They are lumps in the throat. They are coughed out. They are not well made. They rise up, under us, like an undercurrent of raw substance. Muddying. Roiling. Disturbing, even. They are an upset of ground we thought was there, unmaking and remaking that ground. The “o” of their mouths is the o of the navel, of the mouth, the heart, the eye, the lung, the void, the hole, the aperture, the rupture, the sphere, the whole, the nothing, the full, the empty, the stone, the sun, the moon, the wound, the world, the breath, the whoosh.

To further examine the relationship between language, emotion, and materiality, a wall of painted language serves as counterpoint to and for the crying sculptures. Words can be kinds of tears. While these ink-composed writings insist on language’s own materiality, they also gesture at how words might proliferate around a wound, around the gape of this or that sensation or feeling. The text is entitled The Loquela, in reference to a passage in Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse: “This word…designates the flux of language through which the subject tirelessly rehashes the effects of a wound…” Any wound that the sculptures make manifest here, however, is not reducible to the lover’s wound, though it absorbs it. The words flock around the ontological wound of being, around the excess of experience.

-Simone Kearney