Kim Dickey : Claustrum (Cloister)


Kim Dickey : Claustrum (Cloister)
Sep 24 – Nov 7, 2015

Robischon Gallery is pleased to present its first extensive solo exhibition for Colorado artist Kim Dickey. Widely recognized for her assembled constructions of repeating glazed terracotta and stoneware elements, Dickey’s “Claustrum (Cloister)” invokes the architectural form of a medieval cloister sanctuary where a central garden was surrounded by walkways which incorporated sculptures atop columns. Compellingly, the word claustrum, Latin for cloister, is also a neuroscience term for the part of the cerebral cortex where some believe consciousness resides. By alluding to the inherent mystery of the cloister both in design and concept, Dickey’s newest series recalls a period that has passed or a memory that has been forgotten while acknowledging the illusive nature of consciousness itself.

Dickey’s signature architectural topiaries sheathed in variously-hued greens in quatrefoil shapes are evocative of both the cultured or trimmed garden hedgerows as well as minimalist forms in art. The geometric forms define the gallery space while holding an expression of an exterior/interior investigation in reference to the cloister. The artist developed her signature approach to her exhibited architectural forms in response to a 1964 NYC Green Gallery exhibition by noted Minimalist artist Robert Morris. With intent, Dickey referenced the abstracted forms of Morris’ L Beams and I Beams, as an acknowledgement of sculpture as it acts as a prop within the staging of a constructed architectural installation experience. Dickey’s Morris-inspired sculptures respect the forms in dialogue, while her extravagant approach toward her surfaces challenge the viewers’ perception in a decidedly different, more overtly-felt manner.

The context of the architectural space created within the exhibition by the bold, Minimalist referencing forms, allow for Dickey’s sculptural animal inhabitants to reveal themselves to the viewer in a variety of ways. From intricately layered, white glazed stoneware to elaborate foliate-covered surfaces, Dickey’s creatures stand either in procession or in the case of the green-leafed animals, are deftly concealed nearby. The artist’s inherently refined sense of order, expressed with her precisely placed, layered individual ceramic leaves, also cloak or dress each animal – as many are presented, such as the noble stag, located atop a formal, stylized white pedestal reminiscent of medieval columns. Each white creature in procession proudly communicates its appointed virtue, while Dickey’s green-leafed animals seem as if bewitched or possessing the magic to bewitch once their gaze is met. Uniting fauna and flora both, the small and medium green-shrub forms conceal the enchanted hidden animals within – a fox, owl, or bear, as a suggestion that things might not be all as they appear, or even, are hiding in plain sight while the observers become the observed. Pivotal, and at the center of the exhibition, stands a ghostlike outthrust human arm with a shaped green laurel wreath in its grasp. This strategically placed sculpture acts as a pivot point – a symbol of victory amidst the allegorical virtues of the stately animals – as if to reaffirm the presence of an ever-flawed, yet ever-hopeful striving humanity.

All of Dickey’s sculptures consider the ornate and instructive figures that adorned cloisters and once served as cautionary iconography to warn the monks of human flaws and foibles lest they succumb to temptation as they freely communed within the garden space. The artist states, “My animals represent certain qualities such as fidelity, endurance and timeliness. And yet, for every assigned attribute, the meaning flips. It is something I perceive in the way these animals are employed in heraldic imagery and their attendant family mottos. While presenting themselves as moral champions, conversely the animals also embody the falseness or hubris of any claim to character strength. In other words, there is fallibility – vulnerability as exemplified by the porcupine – and that message is latently embedded in these images. As humans, our strength lies in this reminder of imperfection, in our humility and our consciousness of this fact.”

Concluding Dickey’s exhibition is a small box sculpture that concisely expresses her keen sense of theoretical discourse across time. Quatrefoil covered in her unique and personal style, the box is paying homage to Robert Morris’, Box with the Sound of Its Own Making, a work that featured an audio of sawing and hammering. Dickey’s piece entitled Grotto (Box with the Sound of Its Own Making) also emits its own studio audio – the kneading of clay; the spritzing of a water bottle along with the sound of bird calls and musical phrases. This final offering in the exhibition is a fitting expression of Kim Dickey’s complex creative search, conceptual impetus, theatrical sense of space and her abiding reverence for the natural world.

A long-time professor at the University of Colorado, Kim Dickey has a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Dickey’s work is included in the permanent collection of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, the Colorado Collection, University of Colorado, Boulder, Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY, Greenwich House Pottery, New York, NY, Guldagergaard International Art Center, Skaelskor, Denmark, John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI, Museum of Contemporary Art, Honolulu, HI, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX and Slagelse Radhus, Denmark along with work in the collection of Mark and Polly Addison and additional private and corporate collections and exhibitions at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA and Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY, the Museum of Arts and Design, NY and the Denver Botanic Gardens. Kim Dickey has been the recipient of numerous grants, fellowships and awards including; a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, New York, NY, a Eugene Kayden Award, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, Provost Faculty Achievement Award, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, John Michael Kohler Arts and Industry Fellowship, Sheboygan, WI and she has been an artist in residence at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, Maine, Guldagergaard International Residency Center, Skaelskor, Denmark, Corinth Ceramics Studio, Los Angeles, CA, a year-long resident at California State University, Long Beach. Additionally, the artist wishes to thank the University of Colorado’s GCAH (Graduate Committee on the Arts and Humanities) for a generous research grant which in part supported this exhibition.