For ADAA: The Art Show, P·P·O·W is pleased to present a solo installation of new sculptures by pioneering ceramicist Ann Agee. Through cleverly executed, experimental techniques, Agee imbues historical motifs with an idiosyncratic style to obscure the distinction between devotional and industrial objects. This presentation showcases the latest works from her ongoing and widely celebrated series Madonnas of the Girl Child, which was first presented at P·P·O·W in 2021.
Honing and developing her Madonnas over the course of the last five years, Agee has expanded the series in both number and scale invoking a new sense of monumentality and projecting power and strength. Together, Agee’s sculptures form a landscape of color, pattern, and technique, showcasing her mastery of the medium and her ongoing interest in experimentation. The resulting installation exemplifies Agee’s deft technical skill, sophisticated synthetization of cultural histories, and ingenuity with material and form.
Taking inspiration from late-17th and early-18th century Italian folk salt cellars in the collection of the Davanzati Palace in Florence, Agee’s Madonnas subvert the male child’s centuries-long omnipresence in the cultural imagination, instead introducing viewers to a world in which the revered child is female. The resulting works, thus re-envision the divine Madonna and Child in the form of mothers holding, cradling, and breastfeeding their infant daughters. Utilizing this canonical symbol to reflect on secular and personal themes, Agee actively counters the propagandistic use of the Madonna and Child motif throughout history while incorporating figurative sculpture into her decades-long practice of reinventing functional objects.
Agee employs a diverse array of techniques to pattern her works: evenly incorporating pigment into slabs of clay, screen printing, spraying, and stenciling glazes, and directly painting onto her surfaces to create dynamic interplays of pattern and color. To achieve the intricate patterning in Blue Pixelation Madonna, 2023, Agee silkscreened concentric stripes of vibrant blue Kohler “ink” onto paper before transferring them onto the earthenware figures. In Willowy Silhouette Madonna, 2023, Agee used slabs of stoneware clay painted with an iron mixture to construct a mother balancing her child on one knee before using a squeeze bottle to carefully apply rows of white porcelain slip dots.
Alongside figures such as Betty Woodman and Kathy Butterly, Agee is a leading member in a groundbreaking generation of feminist ceramicists. Known for her installations playing with the organization of domestic spaces and traditional decorative motifs, Agee has long experimented with the unsuspecting impact of ubiquitous images and objects. Since her residency at the Kohler Arts Center in 1991, Agee has employed a process of replicating objects by hand as a means of simulating mass-production, ultimately engaging the ambiguous boundaries between fine art and craft. Often stamping her works with “Agee Manufacturing Co.,” or “Agee MFG,” Agee showcases her desire to reinvent pre-existing forms while maintaining each object’s unique identity. The resulting investigations of art, material, and function allow her works to transverse the boundaries between handmade and ready-made, artwork and object.
At this year’s ADAA: The Art Show, Agee will be discussing her work as part of the “Meet the Artists” program on Sunday, November 5, 12 – 3pm.
Ann Agee (b. 1959) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She earned her BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art in 1981 and her MFA from the Yale School of Art in 1986. Her work has been included in notable group exhibitions, including: Bad Girls (1994), The New Museum, NY; Dirt on Delight (2009), Institute of Contemporary Art, PA and the Walker Art Center, MN; and Conversations in Clay (2008), Katonah Art Museum, NY. She has received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, among others. Her works are included in the permanent collection of notable institutions including The Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY; The Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; The RISD Art Museum, RI; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; The Henry Art Museum in Seattle, WA; The Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, WI; and The Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami, FL. In 2022, Agee’s work was exhibited as part of To Begin Again: Artists and Childhood at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA and in manifesto of fragility, the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art, Lyon, France.