Anina Major, Andrés Monzón-Aguirre, Adebunmi Gbadebo
Inventing the Rest: New Adventures in Clay
29 June – 14 September 2023
Maximillian William, London is proud to present Inventing the Rest: New Adventures in Clay, an exhibition of new works by Adebunmi Gbadebo, Anina Major and Andrés Monzón-Aguirre. Through ceramic sculpture, each artist transforms everyday objects and gestures, thereby expressing the particularities of their time, place and personhood.
This exhibition will be the latest in a series of presentations the gallery has curated centred on the cultural and formal significances of clay. The group exhibition, Embodying Anew, opened in May 2021, with the work of Simone Leigh, Magdalene Odundo and Thaddeus Mosley. In July 2022, A Passion for Form featured a selection of works from the collection of Dr Brian Harding including work by Magdalene Odundo, Jennifer Lee, Hans Coper, and Peter Collingwood.
Some of the earliest signs of humanity’s existence are pottery shards; changing raw clay into a fixed state by baking it at a high temperature is among the most ancient of our species’ inventions. Once thus transformed, clay is unchanging: a phenomenon that has allowed it to act as a vessel for cultural transmission across continents and millennia. This potential finds new expression in the works featured in Inventing the Rest: New Adventures in Clay. This exhibition takes its title, from a quote by Andrés Monzón-Aguirre, during the dialogue between themself and Major, in response to A Passion for Form (2022). Monzón-Aguirre refers to artefacts as fragments from which the artist invents their own story. This show presents works, that draw on a rich cultural inheritance yet, stake their own claim for the place of present-day artefacts in the historical record.
Each artist draws from culturally-specific actions and items to create sculptures that reinterpret everything from market stalls to archaeological finds. When Major weaves a sculpture from flat strips of clay, the Bahamian artist is drawing inspiration from the island’s plaited straw-work baskets and trinkets, made by locals – including her own family members – largely for the tourist trade; similarly, the artist’s rounded sculptural forms draw from the beachfront vernacular of floaties and beachballs. Though the results are often ‘imperfect’ – works from her Woven Series sag, riven with often-ragged holes – the position of her source materials is transformed. By reimagining everyday items, the artist bestows status and permanence on the informal and the impermanent.
Adebunmi Gbadebo moves beyond the depiction of non-ceramic media towards their literal use, in combination with clay. Animal bones found in the True Blue Cemetery, South Carolina, sprout from the surface of vessels by the US artist. These wood- or pit-fired forms are coiled from red clay hand-dug in True Blue, a former plantation in Fort Motte, South Carolina; ancestors from Gbadebo’s maternal line were enslaved to work that very same soil, and some lie buried in its cemetery. To work with this earth – against a history of forced migration and labour – is to restate the connection between body and land on the artist’s own terms.
The question of roots is alive, too, in the work of Colombian-born artist Andrés Monzón-Aguirre, who draws from Latin American history and popular culture. Their Bodegón series of glazed earthenware sculptures takes its name from the 17th-century Spanish tradition of still life painting; here they elevate locally ubiquitous foods such as citrus fruit or cocoa pods into pyramidal structures, which draw equally from ancient Andean metalwork and the quotidian practise of stacking provisions for market. Synthesising centuries of cultural (ex)changes and Indigenous displacements, Monzón-Aguirre – like each artist featured in Inventing the Rest: New Adventures in Clay arrives at a new point of hybridity.