Bari Ziperstein: Fantasy Pieces: Decorative Garments for the Home

September 28th - November 18th, 2023

Nina Johnson is pleased to present Fantasy Pieces: Decorative Garments for the Home, a solo exhibition featuring eleven new mixed-media, ceramic-based sculptures by artist Bari Ziperstein. Opening September 28th in the Upstairs Gallery, the artist’s latest body of work examines the political and material cultures of turn of the century Viennese Design and the Wiener Werkstätte resulting in a series of hand built ceramic sculptures from the WW consumer catalogs reinterpreted in clay. Fantasy Pieces: Decorative Garments for the Home is Ziperstein’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. 

Over the past 20 years, Bari Ziperstein has pushed the boundaries of ceramics—scale, color, silhouette, and construction—investigating political histories and collaging their respective narratives to challenge the past and present. Through her practice, she explores connections found between the current socio-political moment and various historical periods (such as the Soviet Union), conflating historical eras by transposing imagery and ideas from various contexts into the present day. Drawing from her personal  Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish heritage, she has developed a mixed-media practice that is deeply personal and conceptually rigorous, as well as politically timely. Ziperstein’s past series include Propaganda Pots and Set Patterns, both exploring Soviet-era propaganda posters and textile design as well as Brutalist Architecture. 

The work presented in Fantasy Pieces: Decorative Garments for the Home had its genesis in 2022 while Ziperstein was a scholar at The Wolfsonian-Florida International University. During the scholarship period, she was immersed in historical and archival research on the aesthetics and ideas deployed in Soviet Era agitprop from plates, figurines, textiles, rare pamphlets to oversized political posters. Out of this ongoing research, Ziperstein began to broaden her scope of interest and look further back in history to parallel textile and artisan manufactured objects from Vienna at the turn of the century. Ziperstein focused on Wiener Werkstätte—an organization of primarily Jewish architects, artists, and designers working in ceramics, fashion, silver, furniture, and graphic arts.

Founded in 1903 by Josef Hoffmann and Kolomon Moser, the Wiener Werkstätte laid the foundation of what would later be coined ‘modernism.’ Working during a precarious political time in Austria, serving primarily elite Jewish patrons, WW established a communal practice with idealistic goals of adapting high design and intricate craftsmanship to objects of all kinds. Their goal was to integrate all the arts and aestheticize all aspects of everyday life, contributing to a fierce resistance to mass production which ultimately led to the firm’s downfall in 1932.

Inspired by the rich, and albeit short life, of the Wiener Werkstatte’s manufacturing practice, Ziperstein found herself immersed in the ethos of the handmade (echoing Ziperstein’s own hand building manufacturing facility, Bari Ziperstein Studio). Their robust catalog of modern products, vibrant textile patterns, decorative motifs of overabundant flowers and plants, and rich color palette informed Ziperstein’s deep feeling of kinship with the spirit of the Wiener Werkstatte as an artist and designer. 

The works featured in Fantasy Pieces: Decorative Garments for the Home manifest an imagined collision of the Wiener Werkstatte’s catalog; wallpaper patterns on top of scaled-up vessels, plant stands interpreted as towers, and failed, elegant, lighting fixtures. Ceramic stoneware works are arranged in clusters, ranging from six-foot-tall towers to smaller, floor-based sculptures. In their respective scales, each piece evokes the repressive gravity and fragility of the material narratives. The sculptures are veiled with intricate carved and hand-painted collages of patterns, color, and ornament; at once, a celebration of craftsmanship and cautionary tale of the metaphorical and fiscal cost of fantasy objects for the home. 

Fantasy Pieces: Decorative Garments for the Home is on view through November 25th.

  • Bari Ziperstein, Curled Arms and Leaves, 2023, Stoneware and glaze, 23 x 28 x 14 in.
Bari Ziperstein

Bari Ziperstein (b. 1978; Chicago, IL) works in mixed media sculpture with a primary focus in ceramics. Materially experimental and conceptual at its core, her practice engages ideas of consumerism, propaganda, and the built environment. Her objects and sculptural tableaux reflect her interest in the political dimensions of economic systems and challenge the construction of desire and aspiration in contemporary American culture through a historical lens. Based in Los Angeles, CA, Ziperstein received a Master of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA in 2004 and a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a certificate in Women’s Studies from Ohio University, Athens OH in 2000.

Solo exhibitions of her work have been presented at Bethel University, Minneapolis, MN (2018); Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design, Santa Barbara, CA (2017); Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art, Rancho Cucamonga, CA (2010); Long Beach City College Project Space, Long Beach, CA (2009); The Harris Art Gallery, University of La Verne, La Verne, CA (2007); and the San Francisco Arts Commission, San Francisco, CA (2005). Recent solo gallery exhibitions have been presented at Vielmetter, Los Angeles, CA (2022) and Charles Moffett Gallery, New York, NY (2023). 

Her work has been included in thematic exhibitions such as Clay Pop, Jeffrey Deitch, NY / LA (2022 / 23); Breaking Ground: Women in California Clay, American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, CA (2022); Transformations, Wende Museum, Culver City, CA (2020); The Body, The Object, The Other, Craft Contemporary, Los Angeles, CA (2020); All Hands on Deck, Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art & Design, Los Angeles, CA (2018); Making It Work: Production by Design, American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, CA (2018); Corporeal Impulse, Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2015); Truthiness: Photography as Sculpture, California Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA (2008); Multiple Vantage Points: Southern California Women Artists, 1980-2006, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2007). She is the 2023-24 recipient of the COLA Individual Master Artist Project Grant from the City of LA Department of Cultural Affairs.