NE Portland, OR (Feb. 7 – March 29, 2014) Eutectic Gallery presents BOTH/AND: selected works from Chris Baskin and Dan Schmitt. “Neither a two person show, nor two solo shows, rather a conversation between two selected bodies of work,” explains curator and director Jeffrey Thomas of the first exhibition of Eutectic Gallery’s 2014 season. BOTH/AND explores the relationship between two seemingly different bodies of work, and how the context of each, informs about the other.
Unfamiliar with each other before being approached for this exhibition, Jeffrey Thomas saw the large terra cotta pieces of Dan Schmitt and instantly felt a connection to a recent studio visit with Chris Baskin. “They complement each other beautifully, different techniques, styles and scale but they really speak to each other, in both their similarities and differences, it’s very eutectic, like two best friends sitting across from each other, one quiet, thoughtful, and calculated, the other loud, somewhat brash, and impulsive; they play off each other but compliment each other as well.”
Chris Baskin and Dan Schmitt share as many differences as they do similarities. As is often the case, it might be easier to draw black and white comparisons between the two, but the conversation about the grey area is often the more interesting one. Many of the similarities between these artists might not be so apparent without a look into each of their histories and backgrounds. While no doubt joined by a common material, Baskin and Schmitt are a great example of similar ethos formed independently of each other, not in contrast, but in relationship to each other.
Chris Baskin was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and raised in Rome, Georgia. His early memories include visiting the New York World’s Fair and seeing folk potter Jug Smith, in rural Alabama, running a potter’s wheel off of a tractor, and grinding local clay with a mule. As a seminary student engaged in the study of World Religion, Chris worked as a production manager at the Sarah Frederick Pottery and began an important relationship with mentor Byron Temple. He received a residency at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana, and from the Bray completed a Master of Fine Arts at Alfred University, New York.
The selected works from Baskin for BOTH/AND include a wide variety of pieces created in 2013. Both functional and objects of virtue, this body of work shows a meticulous exploration through different forms, clay bodies, techniques and firing types, while all maintaining a distinctly Baskin aesthetic.
Dan Schmitt was born in 1973 in Washington State to German parents, Dan moved back to Germany for several years before relocating back to the Pacific Northwest for the remainder of his youth. Dan embraces this bicultural upbringing as a window into his personal aesthetic and the work he creates. Discovering clay while a biology major, three weeks later Dan switched majors to focus on ceramics, a constant in his life since, 20 years later.
Large terra cotta, coil built vessels are the focus of Dan’s work in BOTH/AND. Exploring, form, surface and scale in a way that beautifully contrasts Baskin’s broader search, each vessel exhibits a personality unique to itself while lending to the progression of the next.
Baskin and Schmitt create both art objects and functional objects. While the differences can be subtle in Baskin’s work, they couldn’t be more defined in Schmitt’s. In gallery partner John-Fletcher Halyburton’s words, “Neither artist seem to accept an either/or ethos with the work they create, it’s not a world of black and white, easy choices, or one distinct path, style or philosophy; instead, each have developed their own unique both/and approach. Independently, each has discovered a considerable grey area, but also a large area of color that often accompanies that kind of ethos.”
BOTH/AND – The ARTISTS:
Chris BASKIN: Artist Statement
As an artist I speak about the worlds within and around me. I want my work to be accesible to everyone. Utility is a language that people the world over understand. Beauty is a way for me to connect across time and cultures.
Pottery has potential to both affirm and celebrate the physicality of being human (eating and drinking, seeing and touching) and to transcend while including the physical by expressing emotion and feeling, idea and energy. Because of the nature of the ceramic process (taking formless material from the earth and defining form, structure, color and texture), ceramics speaks about change and transformation.
Essential for me is to understand and know experientially. This pertains to knowing true things about materials (clays, glazes, fires, and kilns) and processes (making, decorating and firing), as well as the composition of meaning.
I use clay from suppliers and recreate clay bodies from various traditions for their explicit qualities, but it is of tremendous importance to me to visit the mountain and dig some of my own clay as well. I identify with the natural processes that create, like the clay I am of this earth and have a long, long history.
Various atmospheric firing processes add particular charachter to my work. Wood firing and Soda Vapor firing each offer different color, texture and surface possiblites, and bring to play distinct variables that create both risk and potential. To effectively engage the fire feels like getting to the place where the majic of transformation actually happens.
My work is informed by various ceramic traditions and viable for peoples needs today. Pottery lends itself to my artistic vision. It provides an apt vessel to express my belief that beauty resides in the ordinary, the everyday, and the human. Making ceramics enables me to reach across categories and boundariies and to celebrate a common sense of humanity.
This practice enables me to create meaning, value and beauty in my life and world.Chris BASKIN Bio, CV, Statements & Gallery
Dan SCHMITT, Artist Statement-
At this point in my life I have been making pots for nearly twenty years or about half of my life. Even though at times I have deviated from functional objects, I continually come back to this format for much of my studio practice. Often viewed as a humble art, pottery continues to be part of the furniture of our lives and offers a level of engagement that is extremely intimate and personal, and I enjoy knowing that my work will make its way into people’s daily lives. The making of pottery engages many points of discussion ranging from issues around sustainability, the role of designer and maker in society, the value of objects and psychological relationships we have to products, and the intimacy and memories we form around artifacts.
While pottery is the primary format I work in, I work in several different clays, temperature ranges, and fire in a variety of kilns. The majority of my work is based around utility and function, though the degree of interpretation of these constraints can vary depending on my intent and design objective. Being a maker of individualized objects allows me to easily dance this line from artist to product designer. Part of my objective is re-framing the ordinary to make it extraordinary.
Dan SCHMITT Bio, CV, Statements & Gallery