The University of Georgia is hosting an exhibition of L.A.-based sculptor Ry Rocklen‘s work now through October 8. On view, among furniture made of trophies and works on paper, were several pieces of the artist’s clothing. A pair of socks. A hoodie. And several folded shirts.
Rocklen uses his own clothing for molds into which he presses porcelain, and the objects become transformed by the hard material into something that wavers between a memory and an essence. In this fixed state, delicate details such as subtle creases remind all the more strongly of an object’s past, worn artifacts of lived life. They somehow become imbued with personality, intimate and fallible, ironically through a process which fixes them in permanence.
But I don’t mean to make these works sound overly poetic. Rather than magic in the moonlight, Rocklen chooses unromantic objects, like pizza and crushed cans, and even his personal clothes were functional and unremarkable. And while the alchemy of porcelain is transformative, its unglazed state and off-white color fends off associations of preciousness. Titles like that of the work above, Toucan Sam–punning on the two cans it is composed of, likewise keep you in the earthly rather than ethereal realm that white might otherwise suggest.
As the original clothes are lost in the casting process, the cast porcelain objects become markers of absence, on one hand recalling what the object was, like a memory. On the other hand, they present the essence of a form, stripping it of incidentals like color, even while severing the object from its original function. All of which serve to make the common and ordinary curious and appealing, and suggests a watchful attachment to the present, which so often slips by unnoticed.