Denny Gallery is pleased to present Permanent Spectacle, the gallery’s first solo exhibition with the artist duo Future Retrieval. Ceramicists who draw on a variety of processes, media, and technologies to create highly detailed work, Guy Michael Davis and Katie Parker have developed a practice that mines the past to reimagine historical events and landscapes to make them resonate in the present day.
Permanent Spectacle is the culmination of a yearlong research project that Davis and Parker undertook at the Smithsonian archives at the National Museum of Natural History and the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum respectively. Using the material they gathered through their research, they created a constructed landscape that references idealized environments filled with wildlife, set against scenic, block printed wallpaper recreated through hand cut paper. The resulting tableau is an elaborate and intricate modern-day period room, a fantastical world filled with artifacts, which re-examines the way decorative objects are typically presented.
The work takes the shape of a curved, cycloramic display that mimics a diorama that one might find at a natural history museum. The hand cut landscape wallpaper, based on patterning from the 1800s, has been altered to erase any trace of human presence. Displayed on pedestals in front of and around the backdrop are porcelain wildlife specimens culled from the Smithsonian’s collection from notable U.S. exploring expeditions and surveys.
Future Retrieval’s studio work is extremely labor intensive and involves a variety of processes and media, which they combine with the use of relevant technologies, such as 3D scanning and printing. Part of the spectacle of their work is the evidence of labor, process, and time that goes into its creation. For the sculptural works of wildlife on view, the duo first scanned the images that Davis collected at the Smithsonian from 3-D taxidermy specimens, then created rapid prototypes, which they used to create molds – scaled to account for porcelain’s shrinkage – and then assembled, cast, and fired the works. For Future Retrieval, the process itself is as important as the end result, and they aim to engage viewers by referencing the intricacies of historical museum collections through combining known traditional processes with new technologies.
“With the increasing digitization of design, texture and ornament have receded and lost some of their artistic aura, which the physicality of craft can restore,” said Future Retrieval. “Our goal is to re-contextualize, compose, alter, and ornament both form and backgrounds to bring the objects we love into a 21st Century dialogue with history.” Drawing inspiration from museums, collections, and history, Future Retrieval seeks out things that they marvel at, using them as a chance to test their skills, always seeking the nearly unattainable.