North Carolina potter Daniel Johnston has transformed Peter's Projects spacious western gallery space into a wooden labyrinth of narrowly constructed curved corridors. As we enter what feels like a weathered tobacco barn from the American South, we encounter fifty bulging vessels of precise shape and size stoically residing over claustrophobic passageways. The lidded jars' massive volumes are accentuated by their elevated placement, causing them to protrude into our space and envelop us in their watchful presence. As we venture deeper toward the epicenter of the structure our visibility becomes limited; the jars grow consecutively darker in value and the streams of reflected light become blocked by the narrowed proximity of charred wooden slats. As we wind out of the installation, the light brightens and the jars reverse their surface values until ending with a stark white vessel at the end of the corridor.
Johnston is a master of his craft; he began his art career in a production pottery creating highly accurate pieces at extreme volumes. His current work maintains the precise skill of repetitive production, but with a conceptual rigor that transcends the mere functionality and pleasing aesthetic inherent to his medium. Johnston's disillusionment with "displaying skill for it's own sake" led him to installation work, which he uses to comment on the impermanence of man made architecture. The potter's impressive display is only a glimpse into his labor intensive process (video here), from mining local clay for his pots to the physical and mental endeavor of building their ephemeral environment. Johnston's highly refined artistry, dedication to his craft and introspective approach contributes to the overarching success of this dynamic installation.