BOBBY SILVERMAN

MELTING POINT & PRESENTATION AT PORCHES INN, NORTH ADAMS, MA

F(E)FF (EVERSON)

TIRANA

American, b. 1956, Port Jefferson, NY
works in Brooklyn, NY

Bobby Silverman is an American artist known for his contemporary design in ceramics. Silverman balances material, process, and idea in a strong, unified whole. In his materials, he brings together pieces with international origins: large-format tiles that originated in China and glazes from England and the Netherlands. Silverman’s technically demanding process combines complex glazing and multi-firing methods that unite the materials in a way that supports and conveys his underlying concepts. These ideas are presented through words, letterforms, coded symbols, color, and texture. His work explores influences from Cuneiform tablets, Arabic calligraphy, Braille, the Ancient Greek poems of Sappho, and the writings of French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

Silverman has received fellowships from the Louisiana State Council for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council for the Arts, and the Southern Arts Federation/National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship. Silverman has exhibited internationally and his work is held in many private and public collections including the Museum of Arts and Design (New York, NY), the European Ceramic Workcenter (Oisterwijk, Netherlands), The Museum of Fine Arts (New York, NY), and the Renwick Gallery of The Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, D.C.).

Silverman earned his MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute, and his BA in Social Geography from Clark University Worcester. Silverman has taught and lectured in China, the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East. He is currently the Director of the Ceramics Center at the 92nd St. Y in New York City.

Bobby Silverman “Wilde”, 2014, Re-fired commercial tile fabricated in Jingdezhen, China, 35 x 27.5 x .5″

ON HIS WORK

My work explores the idiosyncratic nature of ceramic material and its ability to express phenomenological properties including luminosity, translucency, gravity, and reflection. I am primarily interested in how the ceramic surface relates to ideas about abstraction or natural phenomena such as how the static can be made fluid or how a physical surface can seem to have infinite depth. My work develops from the outside in—the surface quality is paramount and the form is chosen to highlight that surface. Most recently, I have begun to add other materials to the mix: cast resin, glass, and automotive paint are used as static counterpoints to the glaze and to extend my conversation about the inherent quality of different materials.

The phenomenological and the material are two of my top studio concerns, yet they are also in service to my primary goal: communication. Material communicates, of course, but often I use literal forms of communication to develop a surface. Cuneiform tablets, Arabic calligraphy, Braille, the Ancient Greek poems of Sappho, and the writings of French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty all influence or appear directly in my work.

Robert Silverman, “f(e)ff (Everson)” 2016, porcelain, wallpaper, photographs, aluminum, pins, tap, 22 x 7′.

ON ONE OF HIS INFLUENCES

We know not through our intellect but through our experience. ― Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Unlike other philosophers, Merleau-Ponty emphasized the body as well as the mind as a gateway to understanding the world. His belief that the body and that which it perceived could not be separated seems perfectly suited to the perceptual and haptic sensibilities of fired clay.
I was initially trained as a social geographer and later as an artist. Acknowledging this early training and reflecting the mind-body understanding, my current work connects the way in which we both visualize information and viscerally experience this process of perception.

Robert Silverman, “Untitled Triptych” 2014, re-fired commercial tile fabricated in Jingdezhen, China, 36 x 28 x 1.5″ (each).

ON HIS TILE WORK

Bobby Silverman’s brilliantly-glazed, large-scale porcelain tiles begin as raw clay in China, where ceramic tradition dates back hundreds of years. Working with expert craftsman, Silverman designed a paper-thin flat tile up to 43 x 33”, which is in itself a technical achievement. The blank tile is fabricated in Jingdezhen, China, fired to a high temperature, crated, and shipped to his studio in the United States. Silverman then masterfully glazes the porcelain and fires it numerous times in his kiln to create a visual language of pure color, vivid striping, or abstract text using Morse code or braille. Because Silverman makes his masterful understanding of the chemistry of ceramics look effortless, the viewer sees a pristine, vibrant work of art that is reminiscent of color field painting, but resonates with a color and light that only glaze can achieve.

Robert Silverman, “Tirana (inspired by Rana) 2015, 15 x 10′.

ON TIRANA

In October 2000, artist Eddie Rama became the Mayor of Tirana, Albania. At that time the capital city was a downtrodden remnant of the Soviet Union. The city budget was squandered, corruption was rampant and crime was the norm. But Rama had an idea to raise the spirits of his town — he painted many of the grey buildings loud colors and bold designs.
When the colored buildings began to multiply, a mood of change started to transform the spirit of the people. There was less litter in the streets, people started to pay taxes. As Rama said “Beauty was giving people a feeling of being protected. This was not a misplaced feeling — crime did fall.”
Inspired by Rama’s vision, I use everyday commercial tile and glaze materials to create surfaces and imagery that blur the traditional lines drawn between art, design and architecture. In doing this I hope to elevate everyday materials and give them meaning beyond their manufactured intent.

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