A notice greets visitors upon arrival at Anton Kern Gallery, where Alessandro Pessoli’s solo exhibition Fired People is now on view (through Oct 20). Part admonishment and part request, the small sign simply notes that the objects on display are very delicate and asks guests to leave at the door any bulky items they might be toting. Neither trick nor gimmick, presumably, the notice serves nonetheless a sort of prefatory function: visitors are now at least slightly more likely to stroll about slowly, with the gentle tread of careful feet, and to behold their curiously bewitching, chromatically rich surroundings with baggage-free bodies and minds.
The title of the exhibition should not be mistaken for a reference to imploded economies or unemployment. Rather, it is materially and procedurally literal: Pessoli’s primary medium here is maiolica ceramic, so he fashions his figures manually, then fires them in a blazing kiln. And this form of fashioning—or more specifically, the artist’s hand—is everywhere visible. Finger strokes and thumbprints create the texture of feathers on birds or the dimpled rims around compositional openings; irregularly pulled or molded slabs of material loaf about in precariously casual balance; pigmented glazes, so generously radiant, glow in swaths of fluid, gestural expressivity. Ceramic objects cannot be properly crafted with the insouciant airs the exhibition breathes—even a minor manual mishap here or there can incite an explosive civil war during firing—yet Pessoli’s light touch, playful shapes and primary-color-charged, ultimately rainbow-ranged palette furnish each piece with a degree of carefree, leavened, captivating whimsy.
Now dangling from or placed atop steel supports wrought with elegant crudity, now interacting with expansively backdrop-like paintings on cotton or paper, the characters Pessoli has conjured—from pure inventions to literary references—are smaller than life yet far larger than reality, puppet-like protagonists in a nearly timeless, nearly weightless, warmly frozen scene. Indeed, Fired People is, in a sense, a peculiarly theatrical dream, one in which slowly drifting spectators meander around abstractly human and beastly troupes of actors idling about with their otherworldly trappings. They give you reason, all the more, to leave your trappings at the door.
Photo Courtesy Anton Kern Gallery, New York