If this room could speak, imagine the tales it could tell. Stories about love and betrayal, kissing and killing, sadness and boredom, the endless seduction would replay as easily as a video. Sometimes, when I enter a strange room for the first time, I try to sense its stories. Often I find them etched in the pattern of wear of the floor, or in splattered forms staining the ceiling. Sometimes, the story emanates from one simple object abandoned on a shelf. If the feeling is particularly strong, that ghost of a story might hit me like a bad case of the chills. But what is this story? A long-faded fantasy or perhaps the shadows of some horrible truth, it’s impossible to tell at first. But nevertheless, an undeniable sense of story permeates the space. It is available. Perhaps if I slept in this room, or even just day-dream long enough, I can enter into this story, take it apart, see how it works. Perseverance furthers.
Irv Tepper’s ceramic work has often affected e this way, and I believe he has always intended his work to do so. In a Tepper cup one senses an object that has been around the block, so to speak. It has a story to tell. It is as if Tepper’s tormented objects absorb and then reflect (or embody) the fierce energy and flailing desperation of failed idealism and faded dreams. It is as if Tepper consecrates the very notion of disillusion by offering us vessels which refute their function, while they insist upon radiating some completely alien message. Charity, faith, and courage. His works are neither simple symbolic objects, nor do they lamely mock religious narrative sculpture. They form an emotionally charged abstraction in which art’s ability to transmute memory creates a novel ground for the language of dreaming. They tell lies that you want to hear. They sing in tongues.
Boston, August 1988
This essay first appeared in the 1988 announcement for Tepper’s solo exhibition at the Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco.