Ferrin Contemporary Presents Unique Ceramic Artwork: A Dinner Party Featuring Presidents and Supreme Court Justices

  • NEW YORK, New York
  • /
  • September 28, 2016

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Justin Rothshank, Barack Obama Tableware Set, 2016 earthenware, glaze, ceramic decals 9" H x 20" W x 6" D
Ferrin Contemporary

Opening on the eve of the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States (whoever she or he might be), a politically charged exhibition by husband-and-wife artists Justin and Brooke Rothshank will go on view at The New York Ceramics & Glass Fair, which opens on January 19, 2017 at The Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street, in New York.

The exhibition Know Justice: Justin and Brooke Rothshank focuses on presidents and their influence on the Supreme Court and is presented by Ferrin Contemporary, specialists in contemporary ceramics that reference historic forms, techniques and concepts. The Rothshanks’ media for this work—Justin’s breakable commemorative tableware and Brooke’s delicate miniature painting—carry a potent extra layer of meaning these days, underlining how fragile democracy is, especially in a time when politics have gone bezerk.

Justin Rothshank, Hilary Clinton Tableware Set, 2016 earthenware, glaze, ceramic decals 9" H x 20" W x 6" D
Ferrin Contemporary

Justin Rothsank works with collaged pop imagery creating photographic decals transferred onto ceramics (pitchers, trophies, and objects used in ceremony), whereas Brooke’s paintings are unique miniatures in watercolor. Collaborating, their artwork features drawn and carved portraits by Brooke of the nine Supreme Court justices and their presidential nominators on Justin’s hand-thrown decorated plates. In addition to the complete dinner services featuring the presidents, Rothshank’s cups, pitchers and bowls also feature political personalities including first ladies Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Obama, first gentleman, Bill Clinton, Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A comparison of Know Justice with Judy Chicago’s incendiary Dinner Party would not be out of place. During the exhibition installed at the gallery, Know Justice had as its centerpiece—like Chicago’s—a large dining table laid with dinner plates portraits of 44 presidents. Showing above and overlooking the table were portraits of the 9 Supreme Court justices, signifying their high place in the government and highlighting the importance of the election process on the justice system. Whoever wins will nominate at least one and perhaps as many as three Supreme Court justices. Depending on the outcome, at the head of the table will be laid a plate bearing the image of either Clinton or Trump.

Justin Rothshank, Donald Trump Tableware Set, 2016 earthenware, glaze, ceramic decals 9" H x 20" W x 6" D
Ferrin Contemporary

The gallery selected the work of Justin and Brooke Rothshank long before the death of Antonin Scalia in February further exposed deep rifts in our country, evidenced by the long-stalled confirmation hearings on his successor. The Rothshanks jointly explained “This show is an introduction to how the Supreme Court has shaped the laws of our country for generations and has become an integral part of our current political and social situation. As we learn about these leaders, we can participate more fully and meaningfully in the conversation about how justice is shaped in our country.”

Adds Leslie Ferrin: “Throughout the 30-year history of our gallery, we have exhibited work of our time by both established and emerging artists who demonstrate social concern as well as deliver criticism. Know Justice provided Ferrin Contemporary with the chance to fulfill one of its key missions—to provide a platform where artists and the public engage in dialogue and exchange ideas through visual art.”


JUSTIN ROTHSHANK is recognized for his ceramic tableware decorated with decals of pop culture images. Having worked independently with clay since his foray into the medium in high school, Justin developed his signature work by appropriating the techniques and styles of artists and mentors he observed and took workshops with—in particular, Howard Kottler and Ron Nagle. Although his work is completely functional, it is, more important, a canvas for his hand-drawn, digitally produced and decorative commentary. Many of the decals in his work were created from his wife Brooke’s paintings, which he then embellishes to convey his take on social and political systems that need careful review and change.

BROOKE ROTHSHANK is known primarily for her mastery of detailed techniques and a variety of two-dimensional media evidenced in both full-scale and miniature drawings and paintings. Brooke is inspired and informed by American painters Andrew Wyeth, Norman Rockwell and Grant Wood and illustrators Margaret Rice Brown and Garth Williams. In this exhibit, her one-twelfth-scale portraits capture the essence of each subject in watercolor. Despite—or possibly because of their tiny scale—Brooke’s works command that attention be paid to the importance of these powerful social and political individuals and the policies they represent.

FERRIN CONTEMPORARY specializes in ceramic art circa 1950 to the present. For more than 30 years, private collectors, institutions and the media have made it their preferred resource for artwork by established and emerging artists whose primary medium is clay. Based in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, Ferrin Contemporary exhibits curated projects and solo shows in their year-round gallery space and through innovative partnerships with leading museums and galleries throughout the United States and abroad.

For more information about Ferrin Contemporary and the exhibition, visit www.ferrincontemporary.com

For more information about The New York Ceramics & Glass Fair, visit www.nyceramicsglass.com

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