Anna Mecugni visits Sidonie Villere’s current show at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery and discusses the artist’s introduction of new materials into her practice.
Over the last decade, New Orleans-based artist Sidonie Villere has assembled a singular body of work characterized by process-centered techniques reminiscent of the Post-Minimalist tendencies of the late 1960s and ’70s, as filtered through the sensibility of a trained ceramicist. (Villere earned BFA and MFA degrees in ceramics from the Newcomb College of Tulane University and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.) For her latest show, on view now at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, Villere has built on her previous explorations using pared-down abstraction evocative of life’s basic emotions and paradoxes, such as vulnerability and the dichotomy of protection versus autonomy. “Interruption” is dedicated to those challenging everyday moments that disrupt an action or train of thought, often causing frustration and anger but also bringing about change and the opportunity for discovery.
Driven by curiosity, Villere scoured hardware stores and retailers in search of a host of ordinary items to use for her new series: foam mattress toppers, duct tape, twisted fiber rope, nylon pantyhose, twist ties, tissue paper, and an array of different nets—fishing nets, tennis nets, golf-practice nets, and soccer-goal nets. Seemingly unified by their monochromatic white surfaces and their hybrid nature as three-dimensional sculptures anchored to the wall like paintings, the 26 works on view—all dating 2017—are, in fact, highly diverse in execution and spirit, ranging from delicate to bold, humorous, and dark. Nets and ropes hang down freely from wall pegs in her Withheld series and from a plywood board’s upper edge in Jumbled, whereas in Shifted, Pulled I and II, Pierced, and Fade I and II, these same materials are taut and tucked behind their mounts. In Kinked, duct tape holds down five thin strips of plastic, which the artist cut out of the caps to her acrylic paint containers and then twisted and bent into elongated loops that look like coat hooks, while in her Flattened series fragments of foam mattress toppers are set together in whimsical abstract compositions with both their smooth sides and the striated wave and circle patterns visible.
Villere’s fascination with foam mattress pads is evident in other works, which are strikingly dissimilar from one another: Wither and a series of works titled Broken. In contrast to the former’s faint appearance—the tiny crumb of foam near the center of the board like a fleeting thought—the intense presence of the latter pieces is almost disturbing. Encased in the cut legs of nylon pantyhose, the three Broken works are made of sections of foam mattress toppers and plaster shaped by a wooden mold. Having retained its sponge-like property, the foam bends and compresses underneath the nylon, suggesting a barely held-together, broken body—the perineum confronting the viewer head-on. Similarly, Punched evokes associations with bodily violence with its cracks and holes, through which tangles of net seem to want to escape, whereas Stolen, a matter-of-fact series of imageless, unexposed Polaroids that were scanned, enlarged, and printed on aluminum, is the polar opposite.
Aside from Stolen, all the works in “Interruption” bear traces of the artist’s hand, as in Villere’s earlier production. But the 26 objects in this exhibition show a heightened interest in the physical qualities of raw materials to help determine the final forms of the works. Most notably, for this show Villere did not fire clay, which has been a core aspect of her previous practice. She is candid about not having enough time to work in ceramics as the mother of two young children. Interruptions, she explains, have come to characterize her life. As these works testify, they have certainly provided fantastic opportunities for discovery.
Sidonie Villere’s “Interruption” is on view through July 22, 2017, at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (400A Julia Street) in New Orleans.