Judi Tavill: Entanglements at Ivy Brown Gallery

In Dialogue
The artist with PROBE, 20.5” x 15” x 15”, ceramic/paint/graphite/varnish, 2021, Photo Credit: Lisa Jennison

Entanglements, Judi Tavill’s solo show at Ivy Brown Gallery, unfolds a world of biomorphic abstractions. From intimate to immersive, her curvilinear ceramic sculptures feature intertwined graphite lines on the surface that seem to emanate from within and radiate outward. Tavill’s subsequent works on paper echo these forms, creating a captivating visual journey. Tangible forms of tree systems, mycelium networks, and biological structures intertwine with intangible psychological states, interpersonal relationships, and sociopolitical tension, entangling to form elaborate networks.

Tell me about the body of work in this show

The work in this show, created between 2020 and 2024, reflects my overwhelming sense of turmoil in my inner and outer world: identity culture, pandemic uncertainty, and political strife. I noticed the way we, as humans, are inextricably connected, how individual biological and natural systems are organized, and how our socio-political systems are built. I formed the belief that connection inevitably leads to entanglement, yet I live with the hope that clarity can be established and resolution may be achieved. The work became a way to express all of this.

The sculptures are hand-built from clay that I fire and paint, then draw on with graphite, sealing with spray varnish. This is a departure from my past, a more traditional way of approaching the medium, which involves throwing forms on the wheel, altering and adorning it with glaze to ultimately fire on the finish. Now, I am using clay as a material, developing form and line in space. As this body developed, the graphite line work that I began to draw on the surface later found its way onto paper in my two-dimensional drawings. Attention to scale is important to me in that one may experience small linear gestures on the larger forms or delicate boldness on one of my smaller sculptures.

The opportunity to show this body of work together, both sculpture and drawings, was especially important to me. My past opportunities have been limited to exhibiting individual sculptures or a small portion of my work in group show settings. The Ivy Brown Gallery is a unique space with an interesting vibe that allows my art to explore this new environment, creating a more immersive experience filled with line and form.

Entanglements{Installation detail including, Encounter(on wall), Entangle(on low plinth), Couple (on stand-front), ceramic/paint/graphite/varnish, 2021-24, at Ivy Brown Gallery, Photo Credit: Judi Tavill

Let’s focus on two sculptures and a subsequent work on paper and discuss the relationship between them.

My process is continual and connective, further illustrating the conceptual idea of connection that I am expressing through my work. As an example, if you look at Involve (2023), you can see the interconnection of coils of clay that I build upon each other to create this mass of attached lines in space. I am further emphasizing this as I draw on the surface, redirecting the energy from the heavy base of darkness and leading to lightness toward the top of the sculpture where the individually drawn lines become a bit more clear. This piece was built during my residency at Vermont Studio Center (March 2023). The genesis of this form was created casually by working on drawings that led to the idea of manifesting a three-dimensional form, and then the drawing on the surface is a direct response to the piece.

The development continued as I was then inspired, upon returning to my studio in New Jersey, to develop a similar energy extracted from that sculpture to create the large drawing, Converge (2023). I am not replicating or documenting my sculptural works through my works on paper. Rather, I am allowing a flow and growth from one to the next as I move between mediums and surfaces. This is why experiencing this drawing with the sculpture, Twirl (2024), in the Entanglements installation is of particular importance to me. Twirl is yet another pause on the journey of my creative exploration. This piece was a response to the Converge drawing. This continuum has and will undoubtedly lead to other drawings and sculptures.

Involve,13.5” x 13.5” x 23”, ceramic/paint/graphite/varnish, 2023, Photo Credit: Judi Tavill
Converge(on wall-right), 33.25” x 33.25” unframed size, graphite on paper, 2024, Twirl(left), 18.25” x 19” x 7”, ceramic/paint/graphite/varnish, 2024. Photo Credit: Judi Tavill

How do you see the body of work in this show in the context of your overall work?

This work was born out of the desire to communicate about my place in and observations of the world within and around me. My previous work as a ceramic artist, for close to twenty years, evolved from creating functional objects to fine craft sculptural vessels and objects specifically made with a design and decorative focus. The shift in my practice occurred at a time when I reached an internal “boiling point” and an “if not now, when?” desire to speak to something MORE with my art. This “series” is obviously abstract; however, it speaks to a bevy of my concerns, emotions, and passions. Here, I am not focused strictly on the formal aspects of design or beauty. Instead, I am expressing these other conceptual reflections while employing my experience in these mediums to further enrich the work. I feel this evolution will continue, and I look forward to the future with renewed anticipation and excitement.

Entanglements {Installation detail including: Sprawl(forward on black stand), Mingle (left on white stand), various, 2021-24, at Ivy Brown Gallery, Photo Credit: Judi Tavill

ENTANGLEMENTS A solo exhibition of sculpture and drawings by Judi Tavill at Ivy Brown Gallery through June 26th, 2024, by appointment at ivybrowngallery@gmail.com or 212-925-1111 675 Hudson Ave, 4th Floor, Meatpacking District, NYC. Closing reception on Wednesday, June 26th, 6-8 pm with an artist talk at 7pm.

About the artist: Judi Tavill, born in 1968 in Baltimore, MD, is an artist who lives and works in Rumson, NJ. She received her BFA from Washington University in St. Louis, MO (1990), becoming a fashion designer and, later, a studio potter and ceramic artist. She completed a Post Baccalaureate through the University of Massachusetts- Dartmouth (2021). Tavill’s sculpture has been curated into many international exhibitions, including the New Jersey Arts Annual (2022) at the Trenton State Art Museum (Trenton, NJ). Her work has been shown throughout the United States, including at Ivy Brown Gallery (NYC, NY), Cavin-Morris Gallery (NYC, NY), Court Tree Collective(Brooklyn, NY), Galerie Lucida(Red Bank, NJ), Hunterdon Art Museum(Clinton, NJ), The Center for Contemporary Art(Bedminster, NJ) and The Delaware Contemporary(Wilmington, DE). Tavill has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Buffalo Creek Arts Center (forthcoming, August 2024). Her work is in the permanent collection of the Flint Institute of Art Museum, as well as many private collections.