Working primarily in ceramic, American multimedia artist Ann Agee, has increasingly become known for her installations, appropriating traditional decoration motifs and playing with the organization of domestic interiors. Drawing on manifestations of home, she creates installations that explore notions of interior life, material culture, feminism and personal history. Interested in investigating the limitations of appropriation, mimicry and manufacturing, Agee employs familiar motifs – from household objects to modernist architecture – that she at once subverts, infusing them with her own personal and familial narratives. Many of Agee’s works reflect on the traditional role of women in the house, and the way in which they construct and influence an interior. Variously referencing 1930’s decorative arts, Rococo ornamentation, mid-century modern and abstract sculpture, her works offer a crafty alternative to appropriation.
Domestic Translations in Exhibition
The exhibition Domestic Translations explores notions of cultural appropriation through the experience of traveling, which is seen as an extension of the domestic sphere – a short break away from the home. However, visitors are not going to be lost in translation. Agee has created guidebooks to her exhibition in six languages: Swedish, Somali, Punjabi, Tamil, Bulgarian and Korean. While traveling herself, Agee became inspired by the commerce of a place through souvenir shops and stands, which offer their own cultural critique, free of curatorial restraints.
The exhibition space is also turned into a home setting. Agee createad a particular home scenery in which her ceramics are to be displayed. The framework for this is provided by two large-scale works i.e. installations of hand painted wallpaper. One features a recreation of the home of the British neoclassical architect John Soane, and the other depicts the interior of her parents’ home in Japan, which echoes the childhood house in which she was raised. The eclectic and highly stylized Soane house stands in contrast to the carefully balanced 50’s modernist, Minge-influenced interior, offering two visions of domesticity, one formal and one functional.
The Art and Craft of Ann Agee
Agee challenges our definition of craft through elevating utilitarian objects to the level of artwork – in taking a frame, vase or plate, for example, and turning it into a ceramic sculpture. Many of the works are stamped with Agee Manufacturing Co., a signature of sorts, exemplifying Agee’s desires to replicate, copy and mimic pre-existing forms. The stamp creates an illusion that the work is a multiple and not unique when in fact, replicated or not, all of Agee’s works are unique. This play between art, material and function, is a constant point of exploration for Agee, and much of her work playfully tows the line between object and artwork, form and function, handmade and ready-made.
An Agee at P.P.O.W Gallery
Agee has created a series of lavish vases, floral mirrors, and abstract standing sculptures. Scattered about the gallery, pieces on view will be large and small scale, some in blown glass containers, fabrics, perfume bottles, and tiny replicas of her own works that collectively act as souvenirs from the residue of memories. A recreation of Agee’s ceramic installation, Lake Michigan Bathroom (1992), last seen in New York at the New Museum in 1994 in the Bad Girls Show curated by Marcia Tucker will be also be on view at P.P.O.W. In its original conception the work was made of industrial cast vitreous china, now it is made of porcelain, stoneware coils and slabs, which reinstates Agee’s interest in replicating by hand industrial techniques to further explore how culture esteems objects that are replicated and reproduced.
Domestic Translations open at P.P.O.W Gallery in New York on March 20th and last to April 18th 2015.
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Featured image – Ann Agee, Untitled (John Soane Breakfast Room) 2014-15, acrylic on paper, dimensions variable.
All images courtesy of P.P.O.W Gallery.