Fri 17 Nov 2023 to Sat 23 Dec 2023
Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 11am-6pm
Artist: Francesca DiMattio
Private view: Thursday 16 November, 6pm-8pm
Pippy Houldsworth Gallery presents Wedgwood, an exhibition of new works by Francesca DiMattio. On the occasion of her fourth solo show at the gallery, DiMattio will transform the space into an immersive installation featuring wallpapers and flooring designed by the artist that will function as a maximalist backdrop to sculptures that scale from the stately to the diminutive.
DiMattio’s multidisciplinary practice transcends categories and disrupts preconceived notions of the domestic and decorative. In a new body of work, she continues her deconstruction of domestic objects with sculptural furniture that refers to 18th-century Sèvres porcelain, alongside a matching chandelier, Rococo mirrors and Wedgwood-inspired wall sconces, plus an array of objects including crockery, shelving and seating. By shifting scale and context, DiMattio invites the viewer to see surface and genre in new ways, and in turn expands our attitudes towards the definition of the feminine.
In DiMattio’s hands domestic material behaves unexpectedly: contemporary utilitarian objects, such as pillows, running shorts, Windex cleaning spray, footballs and scuba masks enter into dialogue with those of historical significance, albeit with their own everyday functions. Opposing elements become inseparably fused through the process of making, while the distance between references, whether aesthetic or chronological, collapses as the artist identifies formal connections. In one work, a branded Gucci bag flows into an ancient Greek vessel, before transforming into a Vans slip on sneaker, whose checkerboard design disappears into a Roman mosaic. Use value contracts under the shifting sense of import and beauty that DiMattio bestows on her sculptures.
The installation will also feature artist-designed wall-to-wall vinyl flooring with a trompe l’oeil mosaic design and hand-painted wallpapers that interact seamlessly with patterns on sculptures and plinths, dissolving and repeating from surface to surface. The flooring toys with the viewer, who sees what appears to be fragile tiles but feels terra firma underfoot. Although the viewer steps across the mosaic print floor, they are not allowed to touch the mosaic sculpture, something that destabilises our perception of the experience of art versus domestic space.
Decorative elements behave irregularly, jumping from pedestal to wall, from furniture to floor, all the while subverting the viewer’s expectations of pattern. Wedgwood jasperware is equally at home in a towering Caryatid as it is on small scale sconces, encouraging us to re-think our relationship to art and function. In one such sculpture a totemic figure is encrusted with detailed cornflower blue relief that sits in contrast with the contemporary Jansport backpack that forms the caryatid’s torso. Covered in blackened barnacles, the sculpture is invested with a sense of the passing of time, as though it has been dredged from a centuries-old shipwreck. The careful precision of the Wedgwood moulds is juxtaposed with a flowing lava glaze and organic seashells.
Elsewhere, black-and-white flowers act as a silver thread between diverse references, from 18th-century Sèvres porcelain production and Viennese DuPaquier, to Nigerian chair beadwork and Messein floral clusters. These formal links collapse time and space. New sculptures in terracotta – exploring the visual language and texture of Attic pottery – bring together contemporary branding with the graphic illustrations that adorned ancient Greek amphora. Bringing clashing prints and textures into conversation with this dizzying array of design references, DiMattio orchestrates unexpected behaviours that imbue the decorative with agency and power, while deconstructing hierarchies of artistic value.
Francesca DiMattio (b. 1981) studied at Cooper Union, New York, and Columbia University, New York. Her recent exhibitions include Ceramics in the Expanded Field, MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2021-23) and Dialogues Across Disciplines, Wellin Museum of Art, New York, (2023), and her solo exhibitions include Sèvres, Nina Johnson, Miami, FL (2022); Statues, Art Omi, Ghent (2019-20); Caryatid, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London (2019); Francesca DiMattio: Housewares, Blaffer Art Museum, Houston, TX (2014); and Francesca DiMattio: Banquet, ICA Boston, MA (2010-11). Collections include San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA; Paisley Museum & Art Galleries, Glasgow; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; Frances Young Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY; and Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL, amongst others.