Culture Object

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Sprayed and Glazed Ceramics
by Maxwell Mustardo, USA


It is pleasantly easy to be seduced by the graphic and classical imagery of Maxwell’s vessels, but to stop there would mean missing half the fun. The underlying theme of the artist’s work is the dialogue between form and surface and the ability of this interaction to reference the relationship between individuality, society and culture.

The artist’s original signature form, the toroid (a one-holed donut-like shape), was initially created as a tool for observing surface. Thanks to its complex curves, when observing from a single position one may readily see the full range of lighting effects upon the surface. With the toroid providing a baseline, the evolution to manipulated classical forms adds a layer of complexity to the form-surface dynamic. Amphora, ewers, and kraters delve into classical Greco-Roman imagery, the totemic ‘stacks’ quote the modern work of famed American ceramicists Peter Voulkos, and the recent ‘gadroon’ forms totally transform a historical seed into an original and full-fledged contemporary icon.

Maxwell’s signature form is the playfully transformed amphora. Throughout history and across cultures, the vessel has stood as a metaphor for the human body. The classical handled amphora, courtesy of its akimbo-like handles, is perhaps the most quintessentially anthropomorphic vessel. Poking and prodding to push tradition to excess, Maxwell swells the proportions to a cartoonish and pudgy scale and affords the handles subtly lively positions.

The dichotomy of surface-form is deepened by the metaphorical reading; the surface of Maxwell’s amphora either reference a skin-like quality when glazed, or a fashion reference when sprayed with colorful rubber coatings. It is no accident that Maxwell often creates and presents his amphorae in groupings of several pieces; they are more than anthropomorphic; they are socio-morphic, representing individuals within a society. One can enjoy Maxwell’s work on a technical and formal aesthetic level, as he invites us to with his toroids, or on multiple levels of sociological and cultural commentary from body, identity, fashion, and culture.