by Sarah Thibault
Erik Scollon’s new exhibition at Romer Young, A Moment Lasts Forever Until It’s Gone, is an introspective collection of ceramics pieces that attempts to wrestle with the concerns of being middle-aged. His previous solo exhibition with the gallery, Urge, was inspired by BDSM gear and its relationship to historical vessels. This time around, his work strikes a softer, more emotive chord, finding inspiration in traditional vanitas and still life paintings.
As a whole, the exhibition is imbued with a weariness, a touch of cheesiness and a dash of existential crisis. His subjects are prone to decay, (flowers, the human body, relationships) and while the materials attempt to preserve them midlife, there is an acceptance of aging and loss.
“Bouquet,” a ceramic matrix of flowers, pairs somber-hued roses with bright, assertive sunflowers. The light and dark flowers act like yin and yang, opposing energies that make up the gains and losses, successes and failures that we experience throughout a lifetime. The clunkiness of his floral shapes makes the pieces feel highly personal and direct, like a sketch in a journal. But while his forms are playful and loose, Scollon is clearly a master of his craft.
One of the standout pieces in the show, “A Shirt (Worn, Washed & Pressed),” is a ceramic recreation of an old button down shirt. As the title suggests, this garment has been recently baptized at the local dry cleaners, then folded to look like new. The sculpture reminds me of the song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. Along with brown paper packages tied up with string, there’s something ever-satisfying about the look of a well-folded shirt (a quality The Gap harnessed to retail success back in the 90s). Here Scollon shows off his sensitivity with the material. The soft ripples of the clay mimic the movement of fabric and you can almost feel its weight were you to pick it up.
Cloth carries experience, much like a body. Despite its neat presentation, the shirt displays a history of mistakes and wear in its stains and faded colors. The loose, hand-painted plaid pattern contributes to its disheveled, threadbare quality. Despite its imperfections, Scollon presents it as is and laundered with care. Frozen in time as a shirt ready to be worn, it is a tribute to new beginnings.
“A Theory of Love” is a pair of worn-in wedding bands made of porcelain and gold luster. The two rings are placed one on top of the other, suggesting a closeness between the couple. The piece made me wonder about the possible narratives behind the objects. Is the couple still together? Did one of them die? Did someone cheat? Scollon reveals nothing personal, but instead leaves us to decipher the clues in the dents and the marred gold finish.
While the exhibition is heavy on sincerity, his work has a quiet humor to it which saves him from overt sappiness. “The Bald Spot,” a photographic tile piece, depicts the back of his head revealing a familiar circle of hairlessness. Benign hair loss takes on gravitas through its dramatic presentation, preserved like an icon in porcelain and silver luster. Scollon reveals his neurotic thought bubble (baldness = death) and the viewer is left to decide how to react. As for me, I choose to laugh. His anxiety around his fading youth is highly relatable, yet small when compared to real loss. This piece, like the show, reminds us to hold on to our sense of humor while we prepare to let ourselves go.
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