Metaphysically charged ceramics by Terri Saulin Frock at TSA

Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinean writer and thinker, proved to be among the most interesting and creative figures of the 20th century through his short stories and essays that delve into the labyrinthine recesses of the human mind and the vast universe we inhabit. It is a testament to his imagination that his ideas are still inspiring artists to this day, and the current show at Tiger Strikes Asteroid pays this notion credence. This Knight Arts grantee is currently showcasing ceramic work by Terri Saulin Frock in a show entitled “The Garden of Forking Paths” after a Borges story of the same name.

Terri Saulin Frock, “Cross Plinth w/ Trefoils, Swept and Offset.”

The objects which Saulin Frock has assembled for this exhibit appear piecemeal in their parts but precise in their execution. They are sound and structural, yet possess a decrepit, ancient air about them. Their existence is so curious that one can’t help but study them or desire to scale the embossed, brick-like walls of works like “Cross Plinth w/ Trefoils, Swept and Offset.” At times the tiny protrusions on these vase-sized creations resemble wood or scaffolding, while their central towers are often reminiscent of fortifications. The heights of these towers are not so high, however, and they exist as models or miniatures of what their otherwise formidable-looking walls could be.

Terri Saulin Frock, "Perforated Stretcher Bond w/ Projecting Fins" showing the tall steel and concrete pedestal.

Terri Saulin Frock, “Perforated Stretcher Bond w/ Projecting Fins” showing the tall steel and concrete pedestal.

Each piece is bestowed with a certain ambiguity that explores the potential sources of the forms that the artist constructs. Saulin Frock derives the vocabulary for these images from a variety of places—including maps of her urban garden, travels abroad, and home renovations—while also paying heed to the metaphysical meanderings of Borges. All of these works rest atop flat blocks of speckled concrete, and many also rise up on black metal pedestals. These elements tie the creations together through their display, highlighting Saulin Frock’s attention to presentation beyond the pieces themselves. The smooth, hard edges of the surfaces they reside on act as a visual antithesis to the rounded, textured compositions of the sculptures themselves.

Terri Saulin Frock, "Moose."

Terri Saulin Frock, “Moose.”

In the story “The Garden of Forking Paths,” Borges details a history outside of time and a network of realities in which all possibilities are inherently true. Saulin Frock seems to amass her ceramic artworks from a similar web of potential, but crafts them in a bristling alabaster and lets their physical structure speak for itself. Occasionally the artist arranges her creations with tiny bits of wood or moss in settings that bestow the structures with the suggestion of an outdoor location without explicitly removing them from their stony or steely gallery fixtures. If Saulin Frock’s pieces like “Moose” include any hint of a garden, it is just that: a hint. The sparse sprigs of plant matter are present but retreat into the background and the garden appears more like an archaic town than anything else.

All of the objects here, like the intricate workings of a Borges tale, seem intent on opening the floodgate of questions and musings without offering solutions. They operate as microcosm for our wildly complicated universe, amalgamating parts of one artist’s interpretation into forms that both fold in self-referentially, and expand indefinitely outward with potential meanings.

Tiger Strikes Asteroid is located at 319 North 11th St., suite 2H, Philadelphia; [email protected]