Peter Pincus’s Finesse
Peter Pincus, Ewer, 2018.
Artists live in a tight world of history and influence. The medium an artist uses often points to possible penchants for attractive pods of that network. How an artist assimilates those areas of interest is complicated and eventually translates into what the artist ends up doing in both apparent and undetectable ways.
Peter Pincus is a contemporary ceramic artist. He has in his own practice evolved a means to unite history and influence to create his signature vision. Although he speaks of ceramics as being “too material specific to be classified as fine art,” he has produced an array of objects that walk a fine line of defying that statement.
As a teacher, husband and father, he and his wife have bonded to establish a vibrant working environment. Their studio is organized and stocked plentifully with materials exemplified by shelf after shelf after shelf of color-infused liquid slip clay. Twenty hours of studio time per week unfolds not only the fabrication of utilitarian objects that helps to fund their livelihood, but also the unique inimitable pieces that constitute Pincus’s oeuvre.
Pincus is an intense, dedicated master of his craft. His work speaks a restrained yet exuberant enthusiasm for those visual artists and ceramicists who have come before him. This article hinges upon an exhibit, at Ferrin Contemporary in North Adams, MA, entitled “Peter Pincus: Channeling Josiah Wedgwood.”
An English potter of the 18th century, Josiah Wedgwood impressed Pincus in more ways than the obvious. Bringing to light Wedgwood’s integrity in regards to how pottery was manufactured intertwined with the dissemination of his views on social justice and labor practice, Pincus distinguishes Wedgwood’s scientific methods as “obsessively” studying materials and their characteristics and “feverishly” creating “bodies of work in a way that was unparalleled in the history of ceramics.” The invention of Jasper, a white unglazed porcelain often colored with metallic oxides, “… altered the way the world viewed porcelain and white ware …” (Pale blue jasperware denotes Wedgwood’s brand of ceramics.) Pincus also believes that pieces coming out of Wedgwood’s factory at Etruria, Italy, are “perhaps the finest work (he) has ever seen. Excellent proportions, gorgeous forms, subtle transitions. It is sculpture about pottery, created before sculpture about pottery was a thing.”
|Peter Pincus, Kalyx Crater, 2018.|
Pincus has adopted and pushed through the most interesting aspects of Wedgwood’s work for his own purposes. He exaggerates, bloats or elongates the predominant curvilinear forms, the details of the handles, the shapes of feet that support the vases and the lips and the spouts of vessels. “There is an endless potential to develop more succinct form. The more I make,” he says, “the more sensitive I become to proportion, scale, and relationship.”
Distinct to Pincus’s interpretation of visual art is the multiplicity of geometric designs superimposed on the surfaces of his pieces.
The interaction of multicolored and/or monotone stripes and parallel-line or triangular shapes that appear on the silky-smooth skins of the ceramic works are created from colored porcelain veneers layered laboriously into the mold. The last layer of material which completes the final three-dimensional form is poured into the prepared plaster mold. The resulting chemistry that occurs in the process of slip clay casting through the multiple firings of the pieces in the molds produces the end product, which itself is washed and treated to its peak condition
|Peter Pincus, Vase with Handles, 2018.|
How materials interact, merge and blossom is crucial to the impact of Pincus’s ceramic art and to how the forms are read: from the top, the side, the other side, or around. These forms are exquisitely detailed and finished. They are not necessarily confined to expressing their utility. He plugs vessels with a gold finish so that the “dead”-ness of their interior disappears: “…closing the form is a fantastic way to add significant structural integrity.” But closing the form also allays the question of function, and directs the context of the object to its inherent sculptural beauty.
The work of Peter Pincus is more than a hybridization of historical and visual forms: it represents the impending dawns of conceptual realization from the shaping, sanding and construction of the plaster molds, down to the infinitesimal distance between the chosen porcelain veneer color arrangement coating the inside of a mold and the slip clay to which it adheres. Within that distance lies the metaphorical spark that births the art.
His work crosses the bridge from “pottery” to “art” in the same way he has described that the work of Wedgwood did, only three centuries later, when art survives in an isolated slice of culture that is paradoxically perpetually prevalent.
|Installation view, Peter Pincus: Channeling Josiah Wedgwood, Ferrin Contemporary, North Adams, MA, Fall, 2018.|