Future Retrieval: Historic Objects through a Contemporary Lens
By Caitlin Confort, January 4, 2017
Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis work collectively under the name Future Retrieval. They met in Cincinnati where they are both fine art professors and have been collab-ing since 2008, developing a unique aesthetic centered on craft and good design.
Parker and Davis make influential historic objects relevant today by examining the original context of each piece and re-positioning it into a contemporary dialogue with art. With each object, they shift the scale, surface, material, and background to change the way it is viewed and to give it a modern flare. They value time and labor and use these techniques to add other layers of meaning on top of already loaded pieces. Similar to a taxidermist or painter, the pair tends to create illusion through material manipulation with fineness and precision.
Working in a partnership allows the creative duo to expand the scope of their research, while producing projects more formidable in scale and growing the amount of tools available to their resourceful practice. Parker and Davis also work in a state of constant critique, a back and forth that never quite answers all the questions and always poses new ideas to discover. The diversity of authorship lets the pair look at their work objectively and allows them to be more open to change.
AZ caught up with Parker and Davis about art and antiquing.
Art Zealous: Hometown?
Katie Parker: Born in Jonesboro, Arkansas but grew up in Plano, Texas.
Guy Michael Davis: Born and raised in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
AZ: Favorite duo in a movie?
Both: Jack and Wendy Torrance in The Shining – we like the way they handle themselves when working together in a shared space.
AZ: How did you two meet?
Both: We met in 1999 as undergrads at the Kansas City Art Institute when we were both majoring in ceramics.
AZ: Where do you draw inspiration from?
Both: We look at a LOT of European porcelain, specifically early Meissen pieces modeled by Kandler and Kirchner. These were two of the first artists to work with porcelain in the West, and had a competitive relationship trying to one-up the other during their lives. The mannerist way in which they sculpted animals while trying to master an unforgiving material is fascinating.
Guy looks at and does a lot of taxidermy – mainly trying to find pure form and perfection through whatever means possible, similar to Martin Heade, John James Audubon, and Herman Melville.
Katie is obsessed with decorative arts and patterning and is constantly searching for imagery that can be taken apart and reconstructed through other materials, looking at early block printed wallpapers and textiles. Some of our contemporary art heroes are Roxy Paine, Jeff Koons, Maurizio Cattelan, Studio Job, Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, Shana Lutker and Julie Mehretu.
“Triumph”, hand cut paper, formica, porcelain, wood, 78” x 30” x 9”, 2016
AZ: Do you enjoy antique shopping? Favorite place to go?
Both: Yes! We love antiquing and will find antique malls everywhere we go. Locally, our favorite is the Burlington Antique Show in Burlington, KY which is a giant outdoor antique sale the third Sunday of every month in the spring and summer.
Internationally, the Ghost Market in Jingdezhen, China is our favorite, buying broken shards of pots found when new buildings go up over old kiln sites from the Ming and Qing dynasties. The market opens at 3am and everyone brings flashlights to scope out the ceramics, trying to nab authentic pieces and avoid the fakes.
Our new studio is actually in a building with an antique mall in Cincinnati, which is perfect for us. We are always creeping on the backroom, seeing what is being brought in before it hits the store – you know, just in case.
“Facade, fountain”, fabric, wood, cardboard, stoneware, 6’ x 8’ x 12”, 2016. Collaboration with Jordan Tate.
AZ: Tell us about your most recent show.
Both: The biggest recent shows all happened in a two-week period last spring. We participated in Spring Break Art Fair with Elizabeth Denny of Denny Gallery and exhibited Façade, a faux European garden made in collaboration with photographer Jordan Tate.
The next week we organized a show in Kansas City titled Nothing You’ve Ever Done Before, exhibiting work made with five other painters and sculptors at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Newcastle Maine the previous summer. We have also been in group shows at HAW Contemporary in Kansas City, 99c Plus Gallery in Brooklyn, Redline in Denver Colorado and the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine in the last three months.
“Epic Drama of Adventure and Exploration”, porcelain, PVD, wood, cut paper, formica, neon, 5’ x 4’ x 2.5’, 2016.
AZ: Currently working on?
Both: We are currently working on a large period room for a solo exhibition at the Fuller Craft Museum in Massachusetts opening this April, titled Permanent Spectacle. Combining research and imagery from our Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowships last spring, we will exhibit the amassed collection of pattern, form, and designs that we have sourced from the Smithsonian Museums.
Guy was working at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, and I was at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in NYC for a couple of months last spring. The room will consist of a large panoramic cut paper landscape scenic on a 12’ curved wall, porcelain taxidermy, furniture and lighting. Similar to how a naturalist or curator is sampling and collecting, we will be capturing and recontextualizing our experience.
AZ: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Both: This summer we have a three-month residency at IASPIS in Stockholm where we plan to continue working with the idea of museums and display – hopefully making furniture, weaving, and working on larger cut paper pieces. The idea is to give the ceramics a break for a little bit.
We also have our first solo exhibition with Denny Gallery in New York City, where we will continue to explore ideas of museum and display, continuing to push the objects and data from our Smithsonian Fellowships. We are also collaborating with other artists, including an ongoing series titled Vessel Cult with painter Amanda Valdez.
The future holds an expansion of our practice and a more open incorporation of other materials and processes. As our ideas get bigger, ceramic isn’t always the most practical solution, but sometimes it is the most beautiful one.