by Dena Santoro
If you were fortunate enough to stop by the 2013 winter group show in New York’s James Fuentes Gallery, “Forget About the Sweetbreads” (curated by the gallery’s associate director Adrianne Rubenstein and the artist Joanne Greenbaum), you’d have discovered an exuberant grouping of female forms, a coffee klatch of color and form by the artist Alice Mackler.
In 2015, Mackler’s first ever solo show, at Kerry Schuss on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, has brought new attention to her work—with a few months to spare before her 82nd birthday. Mackler is receiving accolades for her ceramics, but this solo show also offered 2-D work from earlier in her career, when she was focused on painting and drawing.
Mackler’s inaugural solo show gained art world attention. The New York Times art critic Roberta Smith wrote, “Mackler . . . has a gift for color and texture and for conveying human pomposity. Her work shares in the spirit, if not the appearance, of Daumier’s sculptures and the small wood figures of Feininger.”
It was also reviewed in Artforum by David Rhodes, who called Mackler “an original artist aware of historical and contemporary achievements in traditional mediums, which she has recoined and refined as something singularly her own.”
Mackler’s vibrant figures recall ancient fertility sculptures, and have been compared to the Venus of Willendorf as well as to work by modern artists such as Rodin, Jean Dubuffet, Willem DeKooning, and Niki de St. Phalle. Each piece proposes a distinct form and personality. Her second solo show also included collages that comment on the feminine ideal.
Gallery owner Kerry Schuss said, “People began to take an interest in Alice Mackler’s work as part of the art world’s renewed interest in ceramics.” Schuss showed Mackler’s work at the Independent Art Fair in 2014, and just wrapped her successful second solo exhibition at his Orchard Street gallery in June.
Alice Mackler was born in New York in 1931, attended the Art Students League in the 1950s, and received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1988. Her paintings, shown in the 1990s at Ward Nasse Gallery, foreshadow her ceramic work. She began creating ceramics at Greenwich House in 1999.
Of the new turn in her career, Mackler said, “I feel more comfortable with my work now, and I know that I am doing my best work in 2014. Keep on working, and tell yourself that you are a better artist than anyone else.”
So far this year, Mackler’s work has also appeared in several group shows; “Mirror Effect” at The Box in Los Angeles, and at Jane Hartsook Gallery, New York. Look for more of her work in the upcoming group exhibit “Unorthodox” at the Jewish Museum in November, 2015. Meanwhile, she has given a lively interview to the artist and critic Mary Jones:
MJ: Are there other women artists that you feel a kinship with?
AM: Helen Frankenthaler. I think of all the people who died, and there hasn’t been one show in any art museum of any women artists who have died in the last 10 years. Have there been any shows in any major museums of female artists after they’ve died? There hasn’t been one, has there? I don’t think so. I don’t think there has been. It’s an interesting thought. It’s a good question. Why?
Dena Santoro is a writer and editor who lives in NYC. She can be found on Facebook and at http://zhsquared.com/.
Homepage image courtesy Mary Jones
Other images courtesy Huffington Post