Saturday September 20th 2014
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UDUS AND TILES 
FRANK GIORGINI

UDUS  AND TILES ?FRANK GIORGINI

Freehold, New York

By Thimo Pimentel

As soon as I encountered his work it became a clear inspiration for conceiving elit-tile, an event of global outreach with multiple purposes: to rescue the ceramic tile, promote ceramic copyright in our country and promote solidarity among cities and cultures around the world.  A goal already achieved when we received over 325 works and the participation of 88 countries in the majestic halls of the Centro León for a monumental celebration of ceramic tile that somehow we owe to this noble man, an exceptional musician and ceramics artist, Frank Giorgini.

The cold weather did not become an obstacle that would allow us not to delve into upstate New York in search of Freehold and the house and studio of Frank Giorgini, an artist devoted to ceramic tile and muralist art while also cultivating music and gastronomy.

Frank Giorgini found an African percussion instrument that caught his attention, the UDU, which is basically a water container with a lateral hole. He learned to make Udus  in 1974 when the Haystacks Mountain School of Arts in Maine brought African musicians to teach summer workshops and with them  Ahuwan Abbas, who taught them traditional techniques and how to  make the UDU’s. He manufactured his first UDUS which later gave him fame and fortune as he introduced the UDU to his musician friends and most important percussionists of the time. In 1989 Abbas arrived at Giorgini studio in Freefold to give a workshop on  UDU’s and last year traveled from Africa to visit the studio once again for another workshop. Today Giorgini´s  UDUS have become world famous and are coveted by the best percussionist in the planet. We already have several UDUS in our country,  Guarionex Aquino and Isidro Bobadilla are those that I remember but they only some the  lucky owners of these expensive magical drums with an unmistakable sound. ?Through his teacher, Abbas Ahuwan, Frank Giorgini was able to perform with the ethnic Hausa of Zaria, Nigeria … Ahuwan Abbas has remained an inspiration for Giorgini …

The creative capacity of this ceramic artist has no limits for we can recall how at the Third Ceramic Art Symposium held in Camaguey, Cuba and during the workshop sessions where he taught the assemblage of UDUS  he made a very small one that was later baptized as “UDINI” a miniature UDU drum from which spectacular sounds are drawn.

But my affective relationship with Giorgini originated over a decade ago, when his book “Handmade Tiles” became the inspiration and guidance that led us to passionately dedicate ourselves to the elaboration of tiles. After the book he made videos as well as well-crafted CD’s about tiles and about UDUS. Consequently, the idea of a big international event with tiles comes forward and it was brought to existence due to their easy handling and transportation which makes it´s shipping easy and inexpensive. It is this way that the teacher Frank Giorgini is one of the important pillars of these triennials that have achieved worldwide acceptance.

Giorgini’s work is extensive, therefore we must highlight his classic tiles for small murals or for the covering of  home chimneys, for their exclusive bathrooms or simply for recreation as is the case of  the beautiful murals in the Whitehall subway station in New York City. The Whitehall mural is perhaps one of the few places where you can appreciate the artwork, reflecting the structures of the twin towers in anatomy and upright heart of the big city landscape and already missing New Yorkers.

In 1992 Giorgini was also commissioned to design and elaborate the memorial tiles of the Tile Heritage Foundation as well as numerous private residences interventions. Being that his work was an inspiration force that brought the birth of the International Ceramic Tile Triennial, he remains as a necessary reference as well as a great consultant for all of our projects. This visit to his house, his workshop and his gallery was very enriching and more than pleasant was his company and that of his partner Ana, exquisite cuisine teacher and stellar trainer in the kitchen of her small hotel restaurant Ruby’s.

Among the most recent creations from Giorgini, we can find a unique sink he designs in ceramic for a restaurant … … … … on Stone Street in lower Manhattan which was idealized and carried out by a cast on the sands bordering the river … … … … … .. that borders his home and workshop in Freehold. The result was a spectacular museum piece proving once again that the commissions carried out with freedom can result in successful businesses. In this same restaurant a wood sculptor, neighbor and close friend of Giorgini from freehold, “B. Good”, was who with his skill and gaudy inspiration designed the furniture and ornaments on the borders, inspired by the work of the renowned wood artist Catalan Antonio Gaudí. In this case the association of a ceramist and a sculptor in wood, combined with an entrepreneur with vision and sensitivity brought about the beautiful enlacement of this cozy place in the heart of Manhattan.

In this vast workshop one can find Giorgini’s latest creations, they prove to be inspirational and their originality strengthens and confirms his creative and innovative potential. In this new and very recent creative stage, known by very few, the ceramist still sets aside the enamels and returns to the primitive smoke, to the cracks in the clay, using the glaze as a generator of curious images that seem to arise from magic altars, where the fire itself is responsible for dialogue with the unconscious viewer.

Between visits to his artist friends we arrived at Ruby’s, a perfect mid day occasion to taste Anna’s rich dishes  and to visit the Broderick Fine Art Gallery on its second floor, where I marvelously observed works from Steve Ausbury, photos by David Brickman, the works on wood by “B. Good”, paintings by Ulla Schirmbeck, pictures of Robert Shaw, Thomas Teich, David Brickman, Patrica Scalo and Hiromitsu Morimoto, Albert Strausman, Barbara Walters, Kathy Velis Turan, Rhonda Bertz, Kathy Velis Turan and ceramics work from Giorgini and even others that have escaped my memory.

Yet, Giorgini does not stop …. between technical and conceptual downloads, he pauses to invite me to his Summer Festival of the UDU’s, a party where for two weeks UDU workshops and their elaboration are taking place to culminate with Baku evening party and fellowship .

The visit to Frank Giorgini’s amazing creative space in Freehold has been  one of the most productive and motivating experiences for as I found a friend without mysteries it was an enriching exchange of languages and techniques that motivates us to continue unraveling the intricate labyrinths of ceramics while we are comforted though friendship and human solidarity.

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