“At Your Service” Brings the Plate to the Head of the Table

Posted December 26, 2015 in Press Releases

At Your Service
February 5 – May 8, 2016

Main Gallery
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
4848 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002

Opening Reception
Friday, February 5, 5:30 – 8:00 PM

The evening will also feature the opening of Found Subjects: Works by Sondra Sherman in the Front Gallery, Mixed and Mastered: Turntable Kitsch in the Artist Hall, and open studios by HCCC’s current resident artists.

Hours & Admission
Open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM, and Sunday, 12 – 5 PM.

Closed Easter Sunday.
Admission is free.

(HOUSTON, TX) December 26, 2015 — Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) is pleased to present At Your Service, an exhibition that examines the plate as a cultural touchstone beyond its everyday utility. Curators Amelia Toelke and Niki Johnson join their own works with pieces by an international selection of artists in this stunning exhibition. Whether serving as the canvas for a large-scale painting, cast into three-dimensional sculptures, or transformed into willow patterned jewelry, the plates of At Your Service are both alluring and thought provoking. They cause us to reflect, from anthropological and art historical perspectives, upon the social, cultural, and utilitarian significance of the dishes in our own cupboards. Whether decorative, commemorative, or kitsch, the plates in this exhibition are more than surfaces upon which we serve food. In material culture, plates are alternately status symbols, commemorative objects, and functional household items.

The artists in At Your Service employ the plate as a medium in their creative explorations. Gesine Hackenberg cuts blue and white patterned discs from antique china plates, stringing them into necklaces or setting them in silver to make jewelry. Others repurpose the function of the plate, such as ceramicist and designer Molly Hatch, who paints scenes appropriated from historic prints onto grids of ceramic dinner plates. By transforming these plates from domestic objects into a large-scale painting, in Rigaud, Hatch challenges our familiarity with the plate and the print, creating an experience that brings the two mediums together. Her plate installations touch on the relationship between craft, the decorative arts, and the fine arts.

Sue Johnson’s The Incredible Edibles Series embraces the Rococo tradition of forming platters, tea services, and other dinnerware into the vegetables or animals they are meant to contain. In a society in which we rarely know the origins of our dinner, Sue Johnson’s slip-cast Lamb Stew, a TV dinner featuring a miniature lamb staring back from atop a formless mound of meat, is both humorous and alarming. Ceramicist Emily Loehle, in her series The Four Food Groups, calls attention to the content of the plate in a different way. Much like the nutritional pyramid, each of Loehle’s plates contains clusters of grocery items from the American diet: fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy, and grains. Slip-cast and glazed a uniform white, these floating still-lives protrude from the plates as ghostly shells of the mass-produced food we buy, calling attention to our choices as consumers.

Artist and curator Niki Johnson, in her work God & Country, gives new life to vintage plates. She carefully sandblasts the churches and buildings from each work, leaving behind voids framed by cumulous clouds and idealized nature. These plates raise our awareness as we begin to question the motivations behind this gesture. Niki Johnson, in her artist statement, remarks that her work has “focused on issues of fragility and fortification, recasting objects associated with house and home as symbolic agents of crisis.” Rather than a place, the plates in God & Country commemorate displacement, stemming from our desire to belong.

In choosing a medium as universal and quotidian as the plate, At Your Service curators Niki Johnson and Amelia Toelke have created an exhibition as unique as each visitor. Viewers will bring with them their own emotions, experiences, and cultural traditions involving the plate, furthering the dialogues begun by the show.

About Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) is a nonprofit visual arts center dedicated to advancing education about the process, product and history of craft. HCCC provides exhibition, retail and studio spaces to support the work of local and national artists and serves as a resource for artists, educators and the community at large.

This year, HCCC is celebrating its quinceañera—15 years of educating people of all ages about the beauty and value of contemporary craft. The years since 2001 have seen the organization grow exponentially, with its Artist Residency Program now nationally regarded and its presentation of original exhibitions outstanding. HANDS-ON HOUSTON, a free, monthly, family craft activity has exploded from averaging 50 visitors to over 350 in the past four years. The Asher Gallery has some of the most unique gifts and home décor in Houston, and the Craft Garden offers visitors a chance to learn about plants used in craft making. HCCC has fully grown into its mission and offers visitors many great opportunities to enjoy and learn about craft.

Located in the Museum District at 4848 Main Street, HCCC is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM, and Sunday, 12 – 5 PM. Summer Hours: Closed Sundays, July 5th – Labor Day. Holidays: Closed Easter, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Also closed January 12 – 15, 2016, for repairs. Admission is free. Free parking is available directly behind the facility, off Rosedale and Travis Street. HCCC is three blocks south of Wheeler Ave. MetroRail station on Main Street.

HCCC is funded in part by grants from The Brown Foundation; Houston Endowment, Inc.; the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance; Texas Commission on the Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Kinder Foundation; the Morgan Foundation; Windgate Charitable Foundation; and the Wortham Foundation. HCCC is a member of the Houston Museum District and the Midtown Arts District.

For more information, call 713-529-4848 or visit www.crafthouston.org. Find HCCC on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @CraftHouston.

Jenny Lynn Weitz (jweitz@crafthouston.org)
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
713.529.4848 x 308