Karin Gulbran is an artist based in Los Angeles. Gulbran trained initially as a painter – she received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1996, and her MFA in 1999 from UCLA, whose faculty included John Baldessari, Paul McCarthy, Charles Ray, and Lari Pittman – but more recently her work has taken the form of functional ceramic pots, decorated with highly stylized, and intuitively drawn images of animals – that bring to mind the earlier anthropomorphic bestiary found in the work of artists such as Asger Jorn or Pablo Picasso (both of whom shared Gulbarn’s interest and investment in folk art forms and ceramics in
at once both emotional and psychological
particular.) About this shift, from making ‘Art’ with a capital ‘A’ to the creation of what she describes as functional objects Gulbran has stated: “Making pots started as an escape from the dilemmas of making art – the function justifies the form and the decoration appears on the surface. It has been an outlet for some of my tendencies, sentimentality and personal symbols.” A part of the “dilemma” of making art perhaps resides in art’s uncertain status, its remove from the realities of everyday life – a tension that still underscores and reinforces the hierarchies that persist to this day between ‘high art’ and other forms of vernacular art (inc. folk art, ceramics, etc.) Gulbran’s functional works embrace the classic forms of the cup, the bowl, the vessel – forms that are as old as and inherent to the medium of ceramics itself. What transforms her work from being ‘merely’ utilitarian objects is, to my mind, the autobiographical narratives that Gulbran brings to bear on the work’s surface: a form of decoration that is at once both emotional and psychological, and one that explicitly refers to Gulbran’s own biography and her history as an artist. Often operating as memorials to family pets, or to feral animals only briefly encountered, Gulbran’s self-reflexive works are in turn profoundly melancholic, a prevailing sensibility that seems at odds with the exuberant nature of her drawing, a tension that gives the works their charge. Both physical and psychological, both external and internalized, Gulbran’s ceramic works ultimately resist any easy categorization, operating instead in an idiosyncratic territory of her own making, one that oscillates between the elusive nature of art and the rational desires and demands of life.
- Matthew Higgs. Director, White Columns.
an idiosyncratic territory of her own making,
MATTHEW HIGGS is an artist, curator and writer based in New York. Since 2005 he has been the Director of White Columns, New York’s oldest alternative space. Over the past twenty years Higgs has organized more then 250 exhibitions and projects with artists in Europe and North America, and his writing has appeared in more than 75 books, catalogs, journals and publications. Under Higgs’ tenure White Columns launched a vinyl-only record label releasing music by artists and musicians, recent releases include a 12″ EP by former CAN vocalist Malcolm Mooney and a live album by legendary downtown DJs RUB N’ TUG. In 2013 The Sound of White Columns will release recordings by Meredith Monk and Kim Gordon.