On a long narrow table are thirteen hand-built ceramic sculptures. The title, Table of Contents, hints that each is a segment within a larger story, a kind of visual chapter. This is further intimated by the Roman Numeral name assigned to each piece. The works are suggestive, and the suggestion is the base that provides an imaginative springboard. In them, one may encounter familiarity, a human temperament, cultivated by their dimpled surfaces and smooth rounded ends, some even hinting at the erotic (though like a Rorschach test this is perhaps what one projects). But they also rest on the surface, sublimely composing a sort of miniature landscape. This is Addison Marshall’s Table of Contents – a room of small and dense, wondrous forms that seem to absorb elements of the body, the city, and objects in the world – placed before us, emitting a polite cheekiness, capturing our intrigue.
The sculptures in Table of Contents materialise from drawings, but during the sculpting process, the works deviate from these original designs. To this, Addison remarks, “sometimes the clay wants to do something different”. It is painting and drawing that are often regarded as subconscious acts, while sculpture is seen as more deliberate. And yet contemporary sculptors like Ron Nagle and Ken Price working within the ceramic medium intentionally leave their work open-ended, relishing in the ambiguity. Nagle believes that “it might be based on something [he’s] seen, and subconsciously it finds its way onto paper”. Price states that he likes to be on the “highway to the unconscious… in that place where you’re open, your mind goes quiet, and before long all kinds of possibilities come.” Though ambiguous, Addison’s works are bold and present, and they command the negative space. Each sculpture is committed to a single tone: ten are a chalky bone white, two are deep glazed charcoal grey, and one is pale pink. They flaunt a nakedness, stripped bare of any embellishments that would distract from their true form. Through this nakedness, I catch a glimpse of characteristics attributed to Modernist Typography – in particular Bauhaus typographic design – which practised bold, geometric designs with sans-serif type font (no decorative flicks tacked on). Their alphabetic appearance also recalls a beauty and mystery similar to ancient characters like hieroglyphs. But each symbol of the alphabet is defined by a specific sound and these are not. What they boast is a visual musicality, rhythmic in their stylistic and tonal repetition, and in the rippling of their surfaces.
While drawings are where the works physically begin, in many cases, architecture inspires their conception. Properties of Brutalism– an architectural style boasting raw concrete structures, predominately monochromatic, with harsh geometric lines, devoid of any ornamental features – can be observed on the table. However, this aesthetic is subtly present: the works are of a modest scale, and they are not cold and austere (common descriptors of Brutalism), rather, inviting, and they emanate a warmth. They are presented on a table – an intimate setting, one which facilitates consumption, and in this case, a setting that encourages the beholder to crouch around or peer down upon. But the influence of architecture on Addison’s work is not exclusive to Brutalism, it spans many genres and flourishes from the everyday. Architecture exists all around us, so we naturally absorb it when navigating through the world. When art and architecture combine, we are left with something residing between the ‘functional’ and the ‘non-functional’. Something that hints but remains elusive. It can be seen in unbuilt architectural models preserved as art objects, like Russian Constructivism’s Tatlin’s Tower (1919-20). Although Tatlin’s Tower was never erected, its image persists, documented in many books, remembered for its otherworldly allure. It is an echo of a place that cannot be entered or found in reality, a place existing only in dreams.
Addison’s sculptures are like this, they allow you in without doors. I look at them and imagine chimneys with no clearing for smoke, solid lampshades without light, doorknobs that don’t turn, latex stretched over taut dimpled skin, a dystopian factory, a Phillip Guston painting if it were dismantled and reimagined three-dimensionally – but each interpretation is valid and no single one is correct and therein lies the charisma, the captivating charm of Table of Contents.
Elle Charalambu, 2020