New York_ Francesca DiMattio_ ‘Boucherouite’stitching histories & traditions with porcelain and stoneware & color

by Venetia Kapernekas

Francesca diMattio, “Boucherouite”, Venus II, 2018 (detail), glaze on porcelain and stoneware, resin, enamel, acrylic paint, steel, courtesy salon 94, New York  & artist

 

Upon my return from Europe, from Maremma/Toscana mid-March,  I left a beautiful and lovely springtime landscape.  New York has not smiled to spring; one of those rainy and cold days, I walked one of those mornings into a very special garden at 243 Bowery (salon 94), Francesca DiMattio’s ‘Boucherouite”.

DiMattio returns to the aesthetics of craft for inspiration, metamorphosing traditional techniques and imagery into mad-cap mise en scenes. Boucherouite, the exhibition title, refers to the rag rugs traditionally made from torn and reused clothing by Berber women in North Africa.  In a nod to their improvisational and idiosyncratic style, DiMattio shreds and weaves together images from many centuries and cultures, turning them into a new hybrid form. (Boucherouite exhibition, salon 94, NY, gallery press release)

The Boucherouite rug  is a magical colorful work of art, made by the  Berbers in Morocco, Boucherouite or Boucherwit, from Moroccan Arabic ‘bu Sherwin’ ( a piece torn from pre-used vintage clothing scrap )

 

What is the contract of a copy?  How does a reproduction shift meaning?  Monet’s waterlilies are at once associated with a Kleenex box and to MoMA. I love how a reproduction can reroute the value system, pointing out an image’s inherent instability.  That’s in part why I was drawn to porcelain.  Its development can be mapped through the copying from one culture to another- a history of hybrids: a Dutch version of an Asian scene, the white glazed clay cup faking porcelain, etc. I am most attracted to such dueling combinations. (Francesca DiMattio, February 2018)

Francesca DiMattio, “Boucherouite”, 2018 at Salon 94, Bowery, New York,  exhibition view

Francesca DiMattio, “Boucherouite”,2018 at Salon 94, Bowery, New York, exhibition view

 

Francesca DiMattio, “Boucherouite” ‘Venus II’, 2018, glaze on porcelain and stoneware, resin, enamel, acrylic paint and steel,96x60x38 inches, 2438×152.4×96.5 cm), courtesy of salon 94, NY  & artist

 

Francesca DiMattio, “Boucherouite”,’Venus I’, 2018, glaze on porcelain and stoneware, resin, enamel, acrylic paint and steel, 105 x 44 x 33 inches (266.7 x 111.8 x 83.9 cm), courtesy of salon 94, NY  & artist

As in her painting, in her ceramic work, DiMattio follows the principles of stitching together pieces of fragments of histories and traditions to create multivalent forms and images that connect diverse sculptural and decorative languages around ideas of value, function, gender, and class.  References to decorative wares such as Anatolian Iznik, Chinese Ming Dynasty porcelain, and Dutch Delftware abound alongside allusions to the output of the German factories Meissen and Augarten, the French Du Paquier and Sèvres, and the English Derby, Minton, and Wedgwood. (Claudia Schmuckli “Digital Becoming”, published in DiMattio book, Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston)

Francesca DiMattio,”Boucherouite” ‘Venus I’, (detail )  2018, glaze on porcelain and stoneware, resin, enamel, acrylic paint and steel, 105 x 44 x 33 inches (266.7 x 111.8 x 83.9 cm), courtesy of salon 94 & artist

Roberta Smith writes at the New York Times (April 2015) on  DiMattio ‘s  ‘Domestic Sculpture’ at Salon 94 “Combining porcelain and stoneware, these bravura bricolages owe something to the ceramics of Nicole Cherubini and Arlene Shechet, while merging the improvisation energy of Peter Voulkos with the neo-Expressionist swagger of Julian Schnabel’s broken-crockery paintings. But they mainly reflect Ms. DiMattio’s voracious reconsiderations of the history of ceramics, seemingly deforming, shattering and piecing (or jamming) together appropriated vessels in contrasting styles, glazes and decorative patterns.”

Cindi Strauss finds a challenging similarity of Ms. DiMattio’s work in “Pattern Recognition”* with Katsuyo Aoki‘s

..perhaps one of the most intriguing comparisons to DiMattio’s ceramic sculpture comes in the work of Katsuyo Aoki (see figure below), a Japanese ceramist who has emerged in the past few years as an exponent of a ‘neo-ornamentalist’ style in Japan. Like DiMattio, Aoki favors the baroque and rococo styles of eighteenth-century Western European porcelain, examples of which she has seen only in books. Through her absorption, dilution, and translation of the ‘pieces’ form and ornament, she questions historical porcelain as a symbol of wealth and power. Aoki’s concern is with how these symbols of beauty from the West have filtrated and affected Japanese culture. ….DiMattio’s concern differs, lying in porcelain’s association with the feminine and the easy dismissal of the medium by society. (*Francesca DiMattio, published book by Blaffert Art Museum, University of Houston)

Katsuyo Aoki, view of the solo exhibition, May 2005, INAX gallery2, Tokyo, 2006

Francesca DiMattio working on her studio finalizing her sculptures for “Boucherouite. photo@Mathew Novak, published at New York Times (permission by Salon 94)

 

While walking  around the exhibition large space of Salon 94, at Bowery,  I could not stop thinking the similarity of the intensity of the work with Niki de Saint Phalle ‘s  just a few days before I was at the Tarot Garden by Niki de Saint Phalle in Maremma, a fourteen-acre sculpture park build atop Etruscan ruins, close by the picturesque village of Capalbio,  which happens to be close to my summer home. (see here “Beautiful Monsters” at New Yorker, April 18, 2016, by Ariel Levy)

Niki de Saint Phalle among her Nanas at the Galerie Alexandre Iolas, Paris, Autumn 1965. Photo: © André Morain, Copyright © 2007-2018 Niki Charitable Art Foundation

Niki de Saint Phalle in her studio at Soisy, surrounded by Le Mangeur d’Enfants, La Mariée sous l’Arbre, and Le Cheval et la Mariée. Photo: © Monique Jacot Copyright © 2007-2018 Niki Charitable Art Foundation

To Saint Phalle, the Tarot Garden was to be an Eden of art and magic. To the local gentry, the garden was an act of vandalism. But there was little they could do besides carp about the “madwoman and her monsters,” because Saint Phalle was under the protection of Italian nobility. (Ariel Levy, “Beautiful Monsters” at New Yorker, April 18, 2016)

Francesca DiMattio, “Boucherouite”,2018 at Salon 94, Bowery, exhibition view, courtesy of salon 94 & artist

On Q & A at Interview Magazine, by Emily McDermott, “Francesca DiMattio’s Unstable Stability, November 5, 2015, Ms. DiMattio says,

….I don’t think I took a sculpture class the whole time I was at Cooper. The sculptures really developed out of the paintings, out of the thinking I had already developed. I definitely had to figure out how to make stuff, and I still do. When I was at school nobody could teach me ceramics. I was lucky enough to have that in my family. 

DiMattios’ answer to Anne Thompson’s question “..is there any modernist critique or engagement in your use of ceramics”  … FD: I choose to work with ceramics for feminist reasons rather than as a modernist critique. I was interested in ceramics for its connection to craft because I think a lot about the structures of craft in general. The up and down of sewing, the stark juxtapositions of colors and patterns in guilts, and how knitting and crocheting can turn the disparate material into something altogether new. (*Francesca DiMattio, published book by Blaffert Art Museum, University of Houston)

lovely Francesca DiMattio with Ana-Nefeli, photo©VenetiaKapernekas