Review: Jeff Schwarz at Outlet

Jeff Schwarz exhibition Stacks at Outlet, by Peter Freeby.

Returning for 2016, Outlet BK returns with a fresh exhibition that feels especially warm and friendly against the sporadic NY weather. Jeff Schwarz’s Stacks is an exhibition of a variety of cylinders and tiles arranged cleanly, hanging on the wall, or sitting on little black metal shelves stacked up at eye level on spindly black legs. The installation style makes the lightweight aesthetic of Schwarz’s wheel spun ceramics all the more airy. The exhibition is a particularly colorful selection in the context of Schwarz’s work, and ranges in size from floor-to-ceiling down to nearly hand-held.

Schwarz’s Stacks examine a variety of traditions and draws together some new strings. Schwarz’s use of wheel thrown ceramics examines an ancient tradition of predominantly utilitarian art. He removes their utility by punching squarish holes in the sides of the vases, leaving only the traditions of creating the objects themselves. Schwarz then takes the remains of this now useless utility item and colors it with a relatively more contemporary street graffiti, or high fashion detail. Rather than communicating a message like a graffiti tag, or fitting an anthropomorphic shape like a dress, Schwarz’s work again gets rid of the useful bits of the borrowed tradition and instead uses the form and style and emotive qualities of street art and fabric.

The result is a beautiful object that has over and over again dismissed the usefulness of useful traditions, and begun to examine the beauty of craft itself. Willem de Kooning examined craft physically, painting the same thing over and over and over again. Jeff Schwarz examines craft conceptually. He distances himself from pure ownership of his artistic practice by remixing traditions. He removes himself from the history of those traditions by taking out all the useful bits. The art object that’s left has its own voice separate from the usual beat of craft tradition. The work clean and organic and colorful and fresh and useless and interesting.

The exhibition is on view through February 6, 2016.

Outlet Brooklyn
253 Wilson Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237
Weekends, Sat + Sun, 12-6pm or by appointment