Los Angeles-based ceramicist Vince Palacios has devoted his life to understanding the little storyteller that is hiding in every block of clay. Earning both a Masters of Ceramic Art and a BFA in Ceramics, clay is a form of which Palacios has dedicated his life. Palacios, also a ceramics professor at El Camino College in Torrance, California, likens his practice to that of a comedian or a performer—even after preparation, improvisation is a happy part of the workflow.
Palacios’ latest exhibition, Haptic Memory, on view this September at NYC design gallery, Gabriel & Guillaume, features a series of ceramic vessels emulating ‘potato trees.’ The amorphous works are an expression of the way Palacios synthesizes the world around him—or how he might be synthesized by it. With every awkward lump and bulbous tuber, there’s a self-aware vulnerability. The artist’s clay Anthropocene reassures the viewer, or possessor, that feelings of being out of place are okay, that imperfection is alright, and that emotional rescue comes in all sorts of profound shapes and sizes...for look how proud and content these works appear just being who they are. We caught up with Palacios after his kiln had cooled.
The theme of this issue of Flaunt is ‘emotional rescue.’ Are you rescuing the clay, or is the clay rescuing you
It is a stock answer to say both, but that is the truth. When most people think of ceramics, they think utility, purpose, what is it and what is it for. No one asks these questions about painting. There is house paint, car paint, and fine art painting. They all exist in the same universe. Ceramics, however, seems to struggle to break free from the gravitational pull of cultural definitions, and the need to define clay by the notion of pure function. Having been trained in this process and history of clay, I, too, have a need to be freed from standard definitions.
What do you feel gets lost in your pieces when exhibiting in gallery spaces? Where might the galleries diversify or add to the pieces?
I like both ways of seeing work. By all means, to have work preserved in a museum with its sparse setting helps to show the work in an elevated light, but I also love to see work in living spaces. There is a move in art for galleries to show work in a living space setting. I think this is a smart move. I don’t necessarily want my work to exist in a vacuum. I want it to be with painting, furniture, light, and people.
If you had to liken your practice to favorite song, present or historic, which might you choose?
I have to bring my father into the mix. My father intro- duced me to Mongo Santamaría at a very young age. He would play ‘Bésame’ by Mongo on full volume as he was making chorizo. Dancing, sweating, smelling of chili pow- der, celebrating. That is the energy I look for in my work and work practice. This selected work is a remembrance of those moments with my dad in the kitchen. Color, exuber- ance, excess, celebration.
How do you feel your upbringing has influenced your craft?
This is a longer tale then there is time to tell. In brief, my father was a violent and drug addicted man who spent the first five years of my life in prison, jail, and bars. He found faith, and turned his life around, and became one of the most intense and compelling people I have ever met. His love for poetry, music, and art shaped my early view of the world. He encouraged full immersion into the arts and the passion of making. He lived and lives his life on many precipices and edges that have helped to influence how I navigate life and art. The instability of my early years has given me a confidence, a sense of place and boldness in the unknown, unpredictable, and unstable places of art.