Volume Gallery is pleased to announce its first solo exhibition with Matthias Merkel Hess, Things, opened April 25th.
“For all our technical mastery over things, in the end it is the things that have come to dominate us.”
—From The Meaning of Things, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi & Eugene Rochberg-Halton
For his new show, Things, Matthias Merkel Hess has made a decided break with his previous work and created a series of sculptures that are animate, hive-like and gestural, while remaining rooted in the history and traditions of ceramics. Best known for remaking plastic vessels and other consumer objects in glazed ceramic, for this exhibition Merkel Hess has expanded beyond copying readymade forms to make sculptures influenced by diverse sources including the geometric patterns on milk crates, the early sculptures of Peter Voulkos, and the Marvel character and Fantastic Four member, The Thing.
The Thing, who was born Benjamin Grimm, had his skin transformed by cosmic rays into a craggy, orange, rock-like hide. Unlike the other members of the Fantastic Four, Grimm is unable to change back and trapped in his monstrous form. Unhappy with the transformation, Grimm still uses his powers as The Thing for good. In this sense, he’s a modern version of the Golem – the animated being created from inanimate matter in Jewish folklore – and teaches us that you can’t have everything, and that true liberty and freedom comes from accepting yourself.
Created from inanimate clay, Merkel Hess’ Things begin their life on the wheel. Once the initial form is created, it is altered, carved and pierced, taking on characteristics that are both abstract and familiar. The pieces are then fired and glazed, undergoing a permanent transformation in the kiln that echoes Benjamin Grimm’s own transformation into The Thing.
Abandoning his previous work with plastic forms, Merkel Hess has maintained a looser approach to the Things while still allowing references to historical ceramic vessels and glazes. Less literal than his previous work, the duality of sculpture/vessel, animate/inanimate, figure/ground allows Merkel Hess to further free the medium of ceramics from its constraints of tradition and definition by working within and reveling in the possibilities offered by the medium.
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