Maria Moyer is giving fresh meaning to the phrase “big in Japan.” The Los Angeles–based artist has been a favorite source for the design community since early in her transition to full-time making, when her work was championed by luminaries like Tyler Hays, Rogan Gregory, and Sam Hamilton. The opening of Moyer’s solo exhibition, “Field Notes,” at Tokyo gallery Curator’s Cube this Saturday promises to extend her notoriety to Japan, as well as all-new collecting circles.
When AD PRO reached Moyer by phone the Friday prior to the show’s installation, the artist had just tucked into her kitchen banquette in Hancock Park, having returned to her native L.A. after respective 15- and 13-year stints in San Francisco and New York. Moyer had come off the figurative sprint of completing and shipping the collection of 35 ceramic works, and she planned to celebrate the accomplishment with an IRL run on the beach—just before packing her own suitcase, flying to Japan, and spending three days simultaneously mapping out “Field Notes” and righting her circadian rhythms.
Reflecting on the etiology of “Field Notes,” Moyer explains that Curator’s Cube had first reached out to her in spring 2018 to acquire ceramic and porcelain sculptures left over from her just-closed “Thisness” show in New Zealand, and receipt of those purchases inspired the gallery to request a more thorough collaboration. The invitation reciprocated Moyer’s own feelings: “I knew of them long ago, because West Coast artists who are really important to me, like Alma Allen, Adam Silverman, and Julian Watts, all had shown there,” she says. “I am delighted, and I hope to be following in their footsteps.”
“Being an artist can be solipsistic,” Moyer admits, but she also notes that her relationship with Curator’s Cube is formative—“and I want to honor what caught their attention.” The exhibition therefore feels like a continuation of “Thisness,” by focusing on hand-built stoneware and colored porcelain sculpture that broadcast a certain compositional tension. “I love that place where beauty meets ugly and fragile meets robust,” the artist says of nesting and balancing forms in a seemingly perilous manner for “Field Notes.” On the other hand, these latest pieces ingratiate themselves with the Japanese collector in terms of color palettes and smaller sizes. They also include Moyer’s first earnest exploration of wall-mounted ceramic artworks, in another nod to Tokyo homes’ limited display space.
The new collection dovetails with Moyer’s wider creative arc, specifically her experiments with the surface of a clay body. In “Field Notes,” Moyer employs the ancient Romans’ terra sigillata technique, in which thin coats of slip are applied to stoneware. The surface and substrate dry at different rates, producing a surface tension that creates capillaries, which Moyer visually amplifies by rubbing iron or cobalt oxides into the resulting cracks. Meanwhile, glazes do figure into “Field Notes,” but as a structural element—sometimes as a collar between unglazed forms, sometimes as a freestanding volume—that Moyer shapes by hand.
The creative artist refers to nature’s “absurd beauty and exquisite weirdness” in describing her project. By creating and underscoring capillary patterns or nudging glazes into sea sponge–like shapes, “Field Notes” does not mimic nature so much as bootstrap the systems of our natural world into unique human expression. Moyer says her work considers “ontogeny and phylogeny and the recapitulation theory,” fields that scientists have debated since before Gregor Mendel cultivated his pea plants. It also is a metaphor for material culture—helping, harnessing, and hacking nature is the very process by which we arrived at this point in history. No wonder her oeuvre has resonated with designers known for their awareness of place and ecology. And now, Moyer feels confident of finding these kindred spirits in the world of fine art collecting, too.