Texas Masters Series:
Piero Fenci—Battlement

June 2, 2012 — September 1, 2012
In the Small Gallery

Opening Reception:
Friday, June 1, 2012

5:30, Artist Talks
6:00 – 8:00, Reception
In conjunction with the opening of
Interstitial Spaces: Julia Barello & Beverly Penn.
Featuring open studios by
current artists-in-residence from 6:00 – 7:00 PM.
Click here to see photos from the opening reception.

Demonstration by Piero Fenci: Building Battlement
Saturday, June 2, 2012
2:00 – 5:00 PM
at the Glassell School of Art, Ceramics Studio
5101 Montrose Boulevard
Co-Presented by ClayHouston and The Glassell School of Art

This summer, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) is pleased to present the fourth show in its Texas Masters Series, Piero Fenci—Battlement. Piero Fenci is the fourth artist to receive this honor, awarded to established career artists working in Texas who have made a significant impact in the craft field. Following in the footsteps of former Texas Masters, Harlan Butt, Cindy Hickok and Rachelle Thiewes, Fenci was chosen for his outstanding involvement in the Texas craft community, his dedication and excellence in teaching, the innovative qualities of his work, and his exceptional craftsmanship. As the 2012 Texas Master, Fenci’s work is featured in a solo show and a printed color catalog, and the artist will serve as a juror of the CraftTexas 2014 biennial exhibition.

Fenci’s work has roots in the underlying craft tradition of functionality, while exploring the sculptural and conceptual realm of contemporary ceramics. HCCC Curator, Anna Walker, worked with Fenci to select pieces from four separate bodies of work created during the last five years. The selection highlights the variety of interests and influences in the artist’s work, ranging from traditional origami and Japanese armor of the Muromachi period to Shaker hatboxes and tinware. Fenci says, “I take these archetypes, filter them through my psyche, and intuitively connect them. My work, therefore, constitutes loosely rendered re-inventions of the past; they are my attempt to build a family tree of spiritual ancestors, a heritage of my own passions.”

The earliest works in the show are from Fenci’s Torre series. Torre is the Spanish word for tower, and these quiet machine-like sculptures reference buildings, engines or turbines with their shapes. While Fenci is known for working with brilliant and colorful glazes, the Torre forms have a neutral palette of white and gray. Upon closer examination, a rough crackled texture appears on the surface of the works. These slight disruptions allude to time, age and decay.

The frozen, quiet silhouettes of the Torre series create a serene backdrop for the brighter glazes and sharp angles of Fenci’s Casco y Escudo and Muralla series. Casco y Escudo loosely translates to Helmet and Shield, while Muralla translates to Battlement. Both titles are fairly literal in describing the forms and shapes in the two bodies of work. Fenci’s unique raku method of firing his glazes brings forth “happy accidents” of brilliant metallic colors in his helmet, shield and battlement forms. Not only more colorful than his older work, these newer bodies are constructed using slabs to create angular flat surfaces with sharp edges and geometric shapes that seem to shift as one moves around them. True to their titles, each piece is poised on its pedestal as if recently removed from battle or waiting to be taken into action.

Visitors to the exhibit also have the chance to see Fenci’s Torbellino series of pen-and-ink drawings that complement and echo the forms of his sculptures.

For more than 35 years, Piero Fenci has distinguished himself as both an artist and an educator. Originally from Santa Barbara, California, he holds an MFA from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in Alfred, New York, and a BA in Latin American Studies from Yale University. Since 1975, Fenci has been a teacher and the head of the ceramics department at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX. He has also spent time as a visiting professor at both the Nantucket Island School of Design and the Arts in Nantucket, MA, and the Escuela de Bellas Artes, Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua, Mexico, where he founded the first university ceramic art program in the state’s history.

Fenci’s vessels have been featured in numerous magazines and books, such as Ceramics Monthly, American Ceramics, The Contemporary Potter, and Clay and Glazes for the Potter. His pieces have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions from coast to coast (including HCCC’s CraftTexas 2010) and are included in many private and museum collections, including The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Schein-Joseph International Museum of Ceramic Art in Alfred, NY.

Above images: (1) Piero Fenci, Torre III. Low fire ceramic. Photo: Harrison Evans. (2) Piero Fenci, Torre II. Low fire ceramic. Photo: Harrison Evans. (3) Piero Fenci, Torbellino III. Ink on paper. Photo: Harrison Evans. (4) Piero Fenci, Torbellino II. Ink on paper.
Photo: Harrison Evans. (5) Piero Fenci, Torbellino I. Ink on paper. Photo: Harrison Evans. (6) Piero Fenci, Muralla I. Low fire ceramic. Photo: Harrison Evans. (7) Piero Fenci, Casco y Escudo II. Low fire ceramic. 2010. Photo: Harrison Evans. (8) Piero Fenci, Torre I. Low fire ceramic. Photo: Harrison Evans. (9) Piero Fenci, Casco y Escudo III. Low fire ceramic. Photo: Harrison Evans. (10) Piero Fenci, Casco y Escudo I. Low fire ceramic. 2010. Photo: Harrison Evans.