To identify yourself as a potter in this day and age sounds strangely old-fashioned. A ceramicist, yes; a ceramic artist, sure. And yet there really is no other way to describe Adam Silverman, the Los Angeles–based studio director for Heath Ceramics, who jokes that he keeps a banker’s hours behind the wheel he runs from the back of Heath’s Commune-designed retail facility. Silverman, of course, wasn’t always a potter by trade — he was first a RISD-trained architect and then a fashion entrepreneur who founded the late-’90s fashion label X-Large with his college roommate. But he always had a nagging feeling that he was ignoring his calling. “For me, it was a hobby. If you invited me to your house, I would bring you a pot instead of a bottle of wine,” Silverman told me when I visited his studio earlier this year. Finally in 2002, he attended a summer ceramics program at Alfred University and went about setting up a proper studio in Atwater Village. “I basically gave myself a year, and I have kids, so I couldn’t fuck around. When you do it like that, getting up every day to do the work, your progress is relatively immediate. I had also stepped into this weird vacuum where there was nobody else here doing this kind of thing.”
By “this kind of thing,” Silverman means pottery, but in truth, there is nobody anywhere who turns out the kind of experimental vessels that he specializes in, all wildly textured surfaces and slithery, primordial glazes. Such an unconventional aesthetic might at first seem at odds with Heath, a more streamlined brand with a half-century of tradition behind it. “All of my stuff is a pure expression of process — pieces that are fired many times and ground down in between or glazes that move and freeze when they’re cooled or layers of things that get thicker and thicker and change color,” says Silverman. “When I first got involved, I would get comments from the people up at the Heath factory in Sausalito like, ‘I can help you fix that.’ But I think they’ve come around.” He was hired in 2008 by Heath owners Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic, and these days, anyone stopping by the Heath shop can spy Silverman in the back, churning out small-run production pieces, custom work on commission, and weird ceramic experiments that may one day find life as either of the first two.
Lately those experiments have revolved around a project Silverman is doing in collaboration with the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. “There’s an iconic Louis Kahn building that’s been there since 1972, and they’re building a new Renzo Piano addition next door. There’s a Tadao Ando building near the premises as well. I’m harvesting materials from the construction site and making a body of work from that. I don’t know what I’m going to make or where it will go once it’s done, but the project is basically about how do I use these materials — clays, wood, stones, water, etc. — to make a body of work that somehow reflects the interaction of these three architects, on this site, at this time.” Silverman is keeping a blog detailing the project; check it out here, and keep reading for a glimpse at the potter’s process.
It all started with the pistol, if only because it was “the simplest to do,” says photographer Adam Voorhes. He first studied the gun, looking for ways to segment it, then he took it apart so that its innards were exposed, right down to the bullet casings. “Some objects can be separated like a technical drawing, while others look more organic, like a football helmet with its straps weaving in and out,” he says. The pistol was squarely in the former camp. He took its disassembled parts and built a kind of 3-D installation, each part hanging from a fishing line in proximity, so that the gun would appear to have exploded in mid-air, a bit like the artist Damián Ortega’s axonometric Beetle or this iconic ad from the ’60s. The wires could be erased in Photoshop once Voorhes got the final shot. After the pistol he’d do an Etch-a-Sketch, and an old-school telephone, turning the studio experiments into his best-known series and then selling commercial clients like ESPN and Spirit magazine on the technique. This is how Voorhes works — he is a commercial photographer. He’s not interested in gallery shows. He tests ideas, and then he sells them.
First-time travelers to Amsterdam — perceptive ones, anyway — need only to spend a day navigating its cobbled streets to notice what makes the experience so singular. The buildings are old and narrow, and many seem perilously cockeyed. With their decorative facades and fanciful gables, they resemble oversized gingerbread houses. And when you walk by them, you witness a sight even more peculiar than all of the above: an unobstructed view straight into the living rooms and kitchens of the people who live inside, who refrain from hanging curtains even at ground level. As a locally based friend explained to me on a recent visit, the Dutch may value privacy just as much as the rest of us, but they also take a certain pride in proving they have nothing to hide. This was the thought running through my mind the day that Renny Ramakers, co-founder and director of the influential Dutch design laboratory Droog, let me wander around inside her home unsupervised, snapping hundreds of voyeuristic photos of her possessions while she worked calmly away at her dining table.
When he was an art student in the '80s — in Kassel first, and then Berlin — Markus Linnenbrink worked primarily with grays and blacks. “I had no idea what to do with color,” he admits. “And honestly, I was a little afraid of it.” Which is ironic, considering that for more than a decade, the German-born, Brooklyn-based artist has built a body of work that centers around thick streaks of color — painted in stripes on gallery walls, poured in puddles on the floors of art-fair booths and installations, and dripped in lines down the face of his canvases. “Somehow a field trip to Italy where we spent three weeks painting outside got me into the idea of color, but I had a long period where I would mix, like, red and green. I feel like I had to walk through a lot of dirt and mud to get to the brightness.”