An installation of several thousand handmade clay and ceramic objects and several hundred jars of local produce canned by the artist, Breaking Even expands on Kelli Rae Adams’s ongoing investigations into materiality, process, labor, and value. In this special project for the Bell Gallery curated by Ian Alden Russell, Adams addresses the current economic moment, particularly as it relates to creative endeavors, offering a participatory inquiry into the nature of value and the mechanisms through which we receive and quantify the work and energies of others. Commenting on the exhibition, Adams explains: “Breaking Even is an installation in three parts which together compose a balanced equation of alternate currencies resulting from five months of creative labor. Larger-than-life dominoes, home-canned foods, and porcelain coins represent the work, the energy required to produce the work, and the funds invested in the work, respectively. Through these three currencies, the installation offers a means of comparison by which visitors can consider what constitutes value and exchange in artwork and artistic production.”
Adams’s art is propelled by a desire to create work that can be exploratory and yet not wasteful, complete and yet not necessarily permanent. Apprenticing in Japan under master potter Tetsuro Hatabe, Adams developed a deep and sincere respect for her materials, evident in her considered and limited use of formal permanence and mindful avoidance of waste. Her work to date is distinctive for its use of greenware, or unfired clay in various states, which she later recycles through a simple process of rehydration. Engaging her audience as collaborators in the activation of her exhibitions, viewers have the opportunity to become complicit in the life story of her works. Viewing and handling, perhaps unmaking or breaking the works, visitors to Breaking Even are given time and space to consider and assess the values of materials, their states and aesthetic forms, and the artistic labor required to produce them—each deciding for themselves what constitutes a valuable experience or exchange with the artist through her work.
About the artist
Kelli Rae Adams currently lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island. Her work engages themes of mindfulness and slowness, utilizing unfired clay, fired ceramic components and video to create environments of experience for the viewer. Born in Virginia, she has exhibited internationally in private galleries in Japan and India and at the Museum of International Ceramic Art in Denmark and the Contemporary Urban Centre in Liverpool. Her study of ceramics began in Japan, where she apprenticed over a period of five years with Tetsuro Hatabe, a master potter in the Karatsu tradition. Kelli holds an MFA in Ceramics from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in Visual Arts and Spanish from Duke University and has been adjunct faculty at the Rhode Island School of Design.