Vessels, Nina Johnson Gallery / 2021

Nina Johnson Gallery
Feb 11 – May 1, 2021

When I visited Betty and George in Italy, the first thing I noticed were all the Betty Woodman’s littered around the garden, kitchen and studio. We ate off them, she planted in them, and yet, they were inextricably linked to the precious sculptures I had exhibited in the gallery months prior. For her nearly seventy-year career, Betty battled with functionality, finding joy, release and infinite inspiration in using the idea of function as source material. In the years since my visit to her home just outside Florence, I often think of Betty and her fascination with the vessel as subject matter. Most specifically my love of Betty led me to Katie Stout. More on that later. Over 13 years of gallery exhibitions and one persistent form has continually appeared as an object of desire; the vessel.

In all its many forms, this subject never tires. This much regarded, revered and studied form is the genesis of many discussions, exhibitions, publications, and texts, many of which are more scholarly, well researched and surely more responsible than the one I am presenting here. This exhibition aims to be of the more varietal sort, a vast and random, densely populated network of artists. A group that transcends age, race, and in some instances, even life, yet, somehow the artists within it manage to remain in vividly active conversation with each other. Many consider themselves designers, some architects, some sculptors. Many are dedicated to one media, one persistent conceptual thread, many are not. All are seekers, connecting via tactility.

Last year, on Valentine’s Day, before a pandemic swept the globe, we opened Sour Tasting Liquid, Katie Stout’s third solo exhibition at the gallery. Among the last works completed were the large scale Patch Vessels. As Katie worked into the wee hours of the morning, we discussed the history of American craft and her relationship to it, we talked about her mother, clay, quilting and weaving. It was clear to me that in this form, she had brought together a series of histories critical not only to her own practice, but to the history of design and craft, fine art and ceramics. This conversation led to many discussions with the myriad of artists and dealers who have contributed works to this exhibition, they gave me hope and happiness in a time of much darkness and isolation. Bari Ziperstein, Francesca DiMattio, Jasmine Little, Chris Wolston, Katie Stout, MyungJin Kim, Guy Corriero, Misha Kahn, Anders Ruhwald and Katie Stout all produced new works for the show. Each working through distance, illness, homeschool and a myriad of other obligations beyond their commitment to making work. I am infinitely grateful to them for their time and the chance to see their wonderful faces on the other end of a video chat.

Without wrapping this ribbon too tightly, I would like to suggest thinking of Betty at one end of this story, and Katie on the other. Then to suggest visualizing the vast and varied spectrum of voices included in the show existing as an arc between them, each contributing to this arc and creating an open and wonderful space for discussion, criticality and pleasure. I truly hope this exhibition will bring to the viewer as much as the process of creating it has brought to me. – Nina Johnson Gallery