I first met Peter Shire in 1991 when I was a register jockey at his brother Billy Shire’s shop, The Soap Plant, then on Melrose Ave. He struck me as a good-natured, gregarious fellow with a penchant for bad puns and a quiet, steady vocal delivery that almost invariably ended with a smile. I’m happy to say that twenty years later not much has changed. His amiability is as delightfully forthright as ever and his puns are even more groan-worthy. What has changed in the two decades past is the sheer volume of acclaim that his work has received.
Peter’s first public art commission in 1986 has grown to more than thirty worldwide. His teapots are ubiquitous and (along with his other ceramics and furniture designs) have caused something of a pop revolution. Whether fashioning delicate-looking flowers from steel or evoking monumental scale via fragile, hand-forged porcelain, his bright and eclectic color palette remains consistent with his colorful and playful personality.
If you’ve ever visited Shire’s Echo Park studio, located mere blocks from the house he grew up in, you’ll have been treated to a proper espresso, ground and brewed from a machine gifted him by his fellow Memphis Group collaborators. His graciousness as a host is a copacetic antithesis to the stimulation overload that doubles as his think tank, office, and work space. Once you’ve recovered from the organized chaos, keen observation will reveal a single pattern that pervades nearly all his multi-faceted work: succinct minimalism, redolent of Japanese flower arrangement. How a Sephardic Jew raised in a predominantly Latino neighborhood came to embody the essence of Ikebana is anyone’s guess, but Japanese Industrialists came to notice it.
The selection of pieces contained in this volume are the beneficiaries of a three-month 1992 design project in Hokkaido, Japan. Salvaged brewing factory materials were transformed into incredible, contemporary and fundamentally Japanese works of art. These sculptures remained on display in Japan until 2008, when they were rescued from receivership and returned to California. In November 2010, they were loaned to Santa Monica College and exhibited in the Barrett Art Gallery.
Now, in May 2011, on the 25th anniversary of Peter Shire’s first public art project –and nearly twenty years after these seminal works were first constructed, La Luz de Jesus Gallery is pleased to be the first commercial space to not only display these great works of art, but offer them publicly to private collections: Hokkaido Story Revisited.
It is perfectly fitting that Shire’s work should return to the neighborhood of his childhood, and personally gratifying that on the vigintennial of our first meeting, I get to be the one to present it.
Hokkaido Story Revisited: Late Spring
May 6th - May 29th
Artist Reception & Preview:
Thursday May, 5th 7-9PM