More artwork to come
Lucy Lacoste Gallery will present a solo exhibition of new works by the Massachusetts artist Paul S. Briggs following the recent announcement of the gallery’s representation of his Knot Vessels and Pinched Forms. The show, Intuitive Responses: Poetic Justice in Clay, is on view February 13- March 13, 2021. The center piece of this exhibition will be six sculptures, each inspired by a specific poem written by a noted Black poet. These poets include Lucille Clifton, Sonia Sanchez, Langston Hughes, Harryette Mullen, Maya Angelou and Audre Lorde. A sculpture inspired by Amanda Gorman and her inauguration poem is in the making and may be ready for the opening.
Paul S. Briggs Artist Statement: Poetry Series
The poetry series came about as a way to look for hope and strength during these difficult times and their impact on people of color. It is my work toward finding courage in light of my ongoing work concerning legal violence and incarceration, the disproportionate number of people impacted by the pandemic, and the awakening the siege on the capital brought about as we witnessed the different manner in which people protesting under the banner of Black Lives Matter received versus those flying banners of white supremacy. What became clear was the degree to which black poetry included so much pain and power
Briggs’ forte is bringing issues of the modern Black experience to life through his sculpture. He has written in depth on matters of race and social justice. An artist, professor, philosopher and former pastor, Briggs was first known for making meditative pinch pots. A few years ago, realizing the social injustice of the American prison system, he felt compelled to channel these feelings into series of abstract sculpture. The first series was the Cell Personae, followed by the Knot Vessels, and now the Poetry Series.
To accompany this exhibition there will be a poetry reading, in which the poems are read and the artist talks about the related sculpture.
Paul Briggs, born in 1963, grew up in the Hudson Valley of Newburgh, NY taking his first ceramics class in 9th grade. He eventually landed at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Paul is an artist-teacher with balanced training in Ceramics, Sculpture, and Education. He earned an MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art, an MSED from Alfred University and a PhD in Art Education/Educational Theory and Policy from the Pennsylvania State University. He has taught at all educational levels and in various contexts including the Penland and Haystack Schools of Craft. Recently he was awarded a South Eastern Minnesota Arts Council Grant for the installation, Cell Persona: The Impact of Incarceration on Black Lives. Paul was an Artist in Residence at the Harvard Ceramics Program (2019-2020) and an Associate Professor of Art Education at MassArt.
Briggs’ work can be found in the collections of Flaten Art Museum, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN.; San Angelo Museum of Art, San Angelo, TX; University of Tennessee, Ewing Gallery, Knoxville, TN: Wellesley College Multifaith Center, Wellesley MA and the Pizutti Collection of Columbus Museum of Art. His work will soon become part of collections at the Smithsonian in Washington DC and the Alfred University Ceramic Museum, Alfred, NY.
We are delighted to include the following catalogue essay written by Wayne Higby, the esteemed Artist- Professor of Ceramic Art at Alfred University and Director and Curator of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum:
Regarding the Sculpture of Paul Briggs: The Poetry Series
Paul S. Briggs is an artist with an engaging biography as well as a unique resume. His Poetry Series now on view at Lucy Lacoste Gallery is composed of six independent ceramic sculptures that are mysterious, beautiful and unsettling. There is an important research narrative behind the inspiration for this series. However, visitors to the gallery will hopefully not rely too heavily on this story as a means to access and potentially codify the work. Knowing before an experience with the actual sculpture will, no doubt, prohibit the deep looking, feeling-thinking of a genuine encounter. Briggs’s work offers far more than the potency at the core of its inspiration.
We should always give ourselves the opportunity to experience without thought -- without the fear of not knowing. In so doing, we allow for a direct, unguarded encounter with the reveal. We become receptive to the deep disclosure held within the ideas, materials and processes of art. Art is the reveal and there is particular as well as universal meaning housed within. Art is not the backdrop that tries to explain it.
Paul Briggs offers an arresting reveal not only to himself, but to all of us who wish to engage the work of an accomplished maker. This body of work has intellectual and emotional depth born of authenticity. Current trends in ceramic art are left by the wayside. There is genuine risk here and the courage to be vulnerable to the uncovering of meaning. With his Poetry Series, the intense quality of Briggs’s ability to integrate idea, material and process becomes a teaching. The end result is contact without complete closure. This condition is a core aspect of all significant works of art and provokes a desire for numerous return encounters.
Glenn Adamson, the independent writer and curator based in New York (and author of the recently published book Craft—An American History), recently wrote about Briggs in his article for Friedman-Benda:
The Boston-based artist Paul S. Briggs has said that ceramics are, for him, a way to philosophize concretely.” In this seemingly contradictory phrase, we already get a sense of his work, in which deep structures of thought and feeling find material equivalents. Briggs’ series Cell Personae exemplifies this approach. It is his personal response to the “other” pandemic raging through America – the mass incarceration of Black people, which is itself an act of grand-scale criminality. The works amount to a firm, resolved protest against this ongoing tragedy. Each is rectilinear, evoking the confining dimensions of a jail cell, and contains within it a nest of serpentine forms. They could be taken as symbolizing the psychic energy of imprisoned individuals - complex thoughts and emotional torment - or perhaps, more optimistically, the inevitability of eventual change. The works are remarkable for re-scripting the basic vocabulary of ceramics (slab construction and coils); Briggs brings to these familiar techniques a wholly new, compressed and clear meaning, of great relevance in this year of reckoning with issues of race in America.
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