David Furman: “Figures of Speech” at Lois Lambert Gallery


David Furman
Erotic China: Beijing Opera, 2007
Chinese porcelain, underglaze, oxides, glaze, luster, China paint
15 1⁄2″ x 17 1⁄2″ x 11″
Photo: Jennifer Gill, courtesy Lois Lambert Gallery

“All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own,” observed the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, stressing the significance of our feelings, which he thought make us unique. Los Angeles-based ceramicist David Furman also emphasizes the significance of emotions, yet he reveals the common ones through which we see ourselves rather as a reflection of other people. Therefore, his “Figures of Speech” talk to us about compassion, a sense of belonging, feeling comforted, sullen, misunderstood, protected, small and insignificant, distant or close, alone, contemplative, passionate, angry, annoyed, or different. With this series, initiated in 2004, Furman has taken a completely different direction from his earlier works. When he started in the late 1960s, his focus was on making ceramics representing such subjects as architectural models, food, and his dog, followed by ceramic artist’s tools and his humorous vegetable teapots. However, jaded by hearing, “I can’t believe it’s really clay!” he turned to the figurative wooden mannequins (used as models in drawing classes), which he first engages using plaster molds, before he starts with his ceramic casting process.

The Winter of Our Discontent displays a male and a female figure, sitting on opposite ends of a green sofa with two red pillows between them. His arms are folded across his chest, with his feet positioned parallel. She, however, has her left hand resting on her right, covering one of the knees of her crossed legs. Due to their seating position, closed body language, and faces staring straight ahead instead of gazing at each other, they seem to be not only physically, but also emotionally distant. In Erotic China, Beijing Opera, we once again see a male and female figure, though this time, in a more intimate pose. The figures are lying on a yellow floral-design sofa, with her between his crotch. Both of their legs are spread wide open. His right hand is touching her right breast as her hands are resting on her private parts. She wears a Chinese opera mask. One of Furman’s most suggestive works, the piece belongs to a series that he started working on in a ceramic studio in the city of Jingdezhen in China.

Altogether, this is a delightful show. Straightforward, intelligible, and of fundamental importance, Furman’s works address questions as to how human beings relate to each other-both in body, and in spirit.