I first came upon Claudia Paneca's work when The Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn hosted one of their first annual open studio events. As I wove through the wonderfully diverse and extremely talented maze of artists, her work stood out because its depth wasn't betrayed by its simplicity. I wondered when director of ID, Lucien Zayan, would give her her own exhibit and it took a few years, but it was well worth the wait.
STATE OF MATTER, Cuban born Paneca's first US solo exhibition, used the time to grow into itself. Devoid of contrivance or pretense, the forms and sculptures all feel organic and recognizable even though they are completely born of Paneca's meditations. Made mostly of porcelain, every piece seems to pulsate as it inhabits THE GLASS HOUSE, a greenhouse like exhibition space connected to Invisible Dog. Smartly curated by Gaelle Porte, it's the kind of show that takes you in, making you feel connected on a cellular level to the world you've stepped into.
I really enjoyed being a part of that world, so I asked Paneca how she created it.
What is State of Matter?
State of Matter is a ritualistic meditation to explore the dialectics of matter and non matter through a personal vocabulary of images, writings and symbols. I was inspired by questions like: What is matter? Is conscience a state of matter as some cutting edge scientists propose? What is the essence of a material, an image and the artistic gesture? How does one incorporate more "poetry of Being" into the hyper materialistic society that we live in today?
How did you choose the materials you wanted to work in?
I chose to work mainly with porcelain clay because It fascinates me. All clay has a special memory (the propensity to return to a shape previously held) but that memory is even more present in high-fired porcelain. Clay is a material that carries a lot of information, energetically, historically, symbolically, and I use it as encoded symbolic data through this project. Clay as metaphoric matter. The central piece for the State of Matter exhibition is a ring made of raw porcelain clay on top of a black wood that describe different states of the material: moist, dry, dust. This ephemeral installation is a meditative metaphor of the cycle of life in our own state of matter. All pieces emanate from this central core.
How did the space influence your work?
When I got the chance to do my first solo exhibit in a non-traditional space The Glass House ended up being the ideal place to because its a space where the "inside" and the "outside" merge. This project grew from a deep meditation. The black canvas behind the white pieces were a way to incorporate that meditative space from which all the works came to light. The idea that the pieces inside The Glass House will look like specimens growing in a greenhouse was very close to the ideal. I felt like cultivating an interior space in a public place. In sunny mornings the play of light and shadows inside The Glass House takes all the black and white works to another dimension.
After seeing STATE OF MATTER, I thought a lot about the fleeting state of the art world. About the legendary critics that are tired of the carelessness with which shows are curated and audiences who instantly forget those artists desperate to glibly impress so they can cash out. Fortunately for us, Paneca understands that the best way to impress is by making an indelible impression. One that poetically reflects our cellular collectiveness and speaks to that which we can all understand but may not be able to verbalize. Its these kinds of shows that keep the state of art strong.