Review of May, 2004 Peter Shire Exhibit at Frank Lloyd Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.
American Ceramics. Vol. 14, issue 4, Fall 2004. p. 62
Los Angeles has been derided for being merely a nest of highways, but these roads function uniquely to connect the citys many distinctive elements. And these freeways, elegant wide yawns of concrete pointillistically dotted with vehicles, help define the grand expanse that is LA. For Los Angeles is less one distinct city, than a whirlwind of passionate cultures meeting in a Cartesian fantasy of flexing, extending and changing. It is, then, a place where the pursuit of happiness is still a possibility. One of its native sons, Peter Shire, has absorbed this manifesto deeply, and has throughout his long career has made work which celebrates these aspects of Los Angeles.
Shire became an international art star back in the 1980s as the only American member of the Italian Memphis design movement. In his newest works you can still see the bright colors and hard, block elements that distinguish him, however these pieces possess a softening, a sweetness, that show off his adept skills in a new light. The most satisfying teapots (for these are teapots, despite their apparent lack of any desire for functionality) are long trapezoidal ones with shiny metal additions. With lines like a classic Western ranch home by Cliff May or Joseph Eichler, these pieces celebrate an expansiveness that is pure LA. The ceramic trapezoid is home-base, expertly decorated with Shires familiar pictograms like peaches (a nod to oriental eroticism) or tin-man angels (humanism). The story-telling drawings happily bounce around in the feel-good color schemes of an artist who seems to say that neutrals and the rest spots they provide are decidedly for somebody else. All of this energy is balanced with the elegance and restraint of very simple stainless steel appendages, which take on their own anthropomorphic lives the lengthier visit a viewer makes with them.
These pieces are also funny. Groucho Marx famously quipped Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana. Like the best humor, which also takes incongruencies and somehow unifies them into an absurdist order, the disparate elements of Shires work snuggle up to one another most pleasurably.