Introduction to Earth-Kiln-Bay-Kiln-Bay

"Earth-Kiln-Bay-Kiln-Bay" by Presley MatinEarth-Kiln-Bay-Kiln-Bay was created during the spring of 2007 by Presley Martin and the San Francisco Bay. Martin discovered a beach in Berkeley, CA strewn with weathered bricks. He collected these cast-off bricks and brought them to his studio where he glazed and fired them white. He then returned them to the beach where he made a simple circular arrangement. As the tide rose and fell, the waves of the Bay covered and re-distributed the bricks throughout the beach. With the help of The Present Group and the United States Postal System, the bricks continue their journey around the country, each stage collected and re-presented to new homes.

Earth-Kiln-Bay-Kiln-Bay resulted in an edition of 65 signed wooden boxes that contain three bricks: one brick from each stage in the project, each in its own felted compartment. Also included on the inside of the lid is a video document of the project that features an interview with the artist.


Presley Martin is an artist living and working in Oakland, California. His work elevates the ordinary objects and humble phenomenon he encounters in everyday life. He is especially interested in exploring the ambiguous space between accidental and planned, man-made and natural.

Interview with Presley Martin

Presley Martin was interviewed in Berkeley, CA on April 22, 2007
by Oliver Wise and Eleanor Hanson Wise of The Present Group.


icon for podpress  Interview with Presley Martin [12:28m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download




Oliver Wise: Let’s start with a little bit of your background: how long you’ve been making art, and how you sortof came to it.

Presley Martin: I guess it started in college. I was a science major starting out. I gradually started taking more and more art classes in ceramics in particular, and art history too. And then I got frustrated, left school, and just tried to work as little as possible and pursued what I was interested in doing.

When I was working in Richmond I would ride along the bay on my bike. I started noticing the garbage washed up. I started collecting it. It was too interesting to pass up. So I started out with mostly plastic stuff. I was interested in the fact that you come out to a really natural area, but then you find brightly colored, perfectly round shapes. So I was collecting those when I started out.

I’ve always been interested in ceramics, and making some ceramic sculpture too. So when I first found the bricks, when I realized I could glaze them, it was an interesting way to sortof enter that process of things that get discarded and make it to the bay. Cause with the plastic, I was always thinking of if there was some way I could mark the plastic somehow. But then when I realized I could glaze the bricks, take them out of here, glaze them and sort of add another layer, insert myself into that process.

Yeah in general I’m interested in things that have had a use, and that people discard for whatever reason, or it blows out of their car. So I’m interested in a second life of these things that … when you’re done with your plastic water bottle, you usually don’t think about it, but it goes somewhere. So I guess the Bay was particularly interesting because it seems like it’s this huge collector for most of the people that live in the area. So anything that doesn’t go to the landfill, anything that escapes that stream, most likely will end up here.

Eleanor Hanson Wise: And isn’t that because a lot of the storm drains just wash right out into the bay?

PM: Yeah pretty much every storm drain just goes straight to the bay or straight to a creek that goes to the bay.

EHW: Do you view the bay itself as a sort of collaborator with you, with its own process of sorting and collecting?

PM: I guess. I mean not in a personal way. But it does.. Yeah, it definitely helps. Beause I used to collect just stuff off the street, mostly paper. But the bay definitely makes it easier, it concentrates things along the tide lines especially. That’s what I’ve found too, the different spots contain different things. Like here it’s the bricks, but at other places I haven’t really found any bricks. Other places have more plastic forks, or more gum, or you know…

EHW: What about photography, because you do a decent amount of photography as well, do you find that as sortof another way of collecting and organizing events or places or whatever, or do you see the photos as a more a work on their own?

PM: Not really, because I’ve never had any real formal photography training or anything. So I guess it has been another sort of collection. I do have a collection of found photographs, just ones I find on the street.

EHW: Seems like time is a big thing for you: progression through time.

PM: Yeah it is. It’s not actually something I really think about too much, but it always is an element. I guess it follows my natural rhythm of my life.

EHW: What do you mean?

PM: Well in terms of collecting stuff. For a while I just fit it in after work, or going to work, or whatever. So it’s always been on my scale. Whatever I could carry in my backpack on my bike.

But time, I’m definitely interested seeing how things change over time. With the bricks, I’m interested how the glaze is going to wear off, how the tide and the water is going shift them around. I put them in here and let the bricks in here and let the waves work on them is the same way as putting the clay and paper together and letting it work on its own.

But even with that stuff I’d like to get a sort of natural process involved. So I’d pour out liquid clay onto paper. So as the… when clay dries it shrinks, so it forms…the paper and the clay form together. So as they dry the clay shrinks, the paper tends to curl or buckle and then I, after it dries, extract them from the paper and fire them. And I guess in that way I tend to accumulate a bunch of those bits first and then make some sort of arrangement. You know I’ve done stuff where I ‘ve got a bunch of forks, and I have them in a progression from whole forks all the way down to single tines.

EHW: In a lot of ways your work could be compared to that of Richard Long, Smithson, or Goldsworthy. Do you see your work as a continuation of those Land Artists?

PM: Yeah, I really like their work, but I’ve always shied away from being that. They seem so serious. There’s like this purity that they strive for that just doesn’t really feel right to me. But I’ve always really been interested in the nature in the city. City parks. When I lived in Pittsburg, I was amazed that there were these beautiful parks. And you could go, just find a spot, and sit all by yourself. You’re in the city, but you can sit amongst the trees, and be totally by yourself.

EHW: Do you see your work as more performance based almost, or more as finished pieces, or are they more a thing that just doesn’t really have an end?

PM: Hmm. I never thought of it as performance until seems like four years ago. I took this class with this group of people and we were talking about presenting work and stuff, and it came up about my work that it was like this performance of going out and collecting and arranging this stuff. So since then I have thought about it more in that term, but it hasn’t really affected the way I do it.

So now I’m going to come back, over the next couple days, and see what’s going on. The performance of the elements. But I guess I had always had this notion of performance art in a gallery, you know Joseph Beuys living with wolf for a week or whatever.

I guess over the years I’ve been doing this, I feel like I’ve gotten more comfortable with it. And it’s more of who I am now, which is a pretty quiet person. So I’m getting, getting to that place, you know, of expressing who I am.


Presley Martin’s Innocence by Emily Kuenstler

Presley Martin’s oeuvre may be said to exemplify the interdisciplinary pull shared by many young artists today, comprised as it is of several distinct voices: modish, elegant, expressive, and mysterious ceramics vie for attention next to an archive of consumer detritus, painstakingly collected and catalogued in plastic bags. Another trajectory is his text-based work: a wooden specimen case holds found text — excised from the sea of printed matter we produce and discard — each word stuck on the head of a pin, a box poem which rants from within its confine. He acts out of familiarity with topics relevant to both the new crafts movement and so-called “relational aesthetics“; conceptual ritual and post-pop love for civilization’s remnants, its clues re-contextualized, reinterpreted.

words-of-the-bay1The temptation to experiment with a variety of mediums is great; the challenge to integrate ones predecessors and to retain something resembling an original voice is equally exacting. It is gratifying to see this privilege – that freedom – used so sincerely and to such sensitive ends, as in the case of Mr. Martin. His entire oeuvre bears the mark of originality in its earnest pursuit of an intellectual/ spiritual ideal. I see in Martin’s work a consistent, victorious marrying of beauty and intellectual experimentation.

It takes (as the Zen saying goes) “Beginner’s Mind,” to approach one’s life and work this way, and he should be commended for making new what he inherits from influences as diverse as: Lee Bontecou‘s fatigued/distressed materials bearing a patina of knowing, of age; Tom Phillip’s word texts that are scraps and tomes at once; and the heavenly painter Richard Pousette-Dart. His use of black glaze also evokes Allan McCollum‘s reliquaries, in which a monochromatic grey-black ceramic finish accents forms, silhouettes and micro-form within a larger whole; and of course, Louise Nevelson assemblage. Again, like Nevelson, his love of found objects is balanced with an aesthete’s sensitivity to form. Presley shares a quality of understatement similar to Italian arte povera, a sculpture movement that arose in response to WWII and used many found objects to evoke existential states. A true descendent of several converging schools of 20th century art, Martin has forged a unique and fresh working method that authentically rearticulates potent phrases from minimalism, conceptualism, and earth art.

When I first encountered Presley Martin’s new piece, “Earth-Kiln-Bay-Kiln-Bay,” I recognized its debt to monumental “Earth Art” from the seventies (Heizer, Smithson) and Andy Goldsworthy. But the difference is that of scale, both metaphoric and physical. Though, for example, Goldsworthy uses delicate materials, his impact is of total aesthetic redesign: the forest is completely transformed into his flag of pattern, whatever he may choose. And the Earth Art of the 1970′s specifically took on the entire landscape, seeking a proscenium for sculpture outside institutional walls. Ana Mendieta and Ann Hamilton might be better comparisons for Martin’s art where natural materials come into aesthetic play in virtue of personal ritual, in service to the artist’s search for meaning. He calls it a piece timed in order “to insert myself into the process.”

If pressed, he says, “I would have to say that the amount of waste we are producing isn’t good. My work, however, is a description of what happens to an object once it’s use value is forgotten; it has a whole second life cracked or stained by its journey to the bay after being thrown away.” He is in good company with Nevelson, who said, “When you put together things that other people have thrown out, you’re really bringing them to life – a spiritual life that surpasses the life for which they were originally created.” The sensibility common across much of Martin’s work could be viewed as belief in the magic of objects. In “The Bay Project,” objects link us to earlier times. In his process-oriented “Earth-Kiln-Bay-Kiln-Bay” the bricks are part of the ritual which renders them more than their mundane former selves, animated like a tribal map in their final configuration. His text pieces are perhaps the most spare and really highlight the enchantment aspect of his treatment of everyday things: simply by cutting and rearranging the language of advertising circulars and magazines, they become anguished and florid spells/poems.

bricks from Presley Martin's "Earth-Kiln-Bay-Kiln-Bay"At some point walking the stretch of Bay beach in Berkeley CA, Martin saw the strewn bricks washed up that would eventually be incorporated into “Earth-Kiln-Bay- Kiln-Bay.” In this most recent piece, he calls the original bricks “virgin” in contrast with their white, ceramic-glazed cousins which reappear on the beach, marking the time that has passed and highlighting their man-made status among “real” rocks. So, from the suggestion of production intrinsic in consumer detritus, the artist Martin powerfully inhabits the beach, and personalizes the production of the bricks themselves, becoming a maker of what is found there. This potent metaphor acts in counterpoint to the generally thoughtless chain of consuming and casting off.

One can often glean – but not quite define – sincerity in a given artist’s work. It is as if they would do just what they are doing even if everyone stopped watching. This is so palpable in some (including Mr. Martin’s work) that it enriches the viewer, like a quiet conversation. To borrow and patchwork together many styles for the sake of relevance or innovation would never nourish the maker the way a gentle digesting of life itself does. In this way the art accrues meaning from contemplation, and observing it makes the world altogether clearer. I find Martin’s work especially relevant to the times in which we now live. While the seriousness of world events and crises require daily reckoning with meaning, reclaimed objects inherently illicit new meanings, recontextualized. Rethinking where we have been as a society -and how we have gotten here – is crucial; doing so in a pure, considered aesthetic gesture is restorative.



Emily Kuenstler is an artist and writer living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her writings have appeared in AfterImage and

TPG2 – Annotated Links


Duchamp’s Fountain – Generally regarded as the first found art object.

Found Magazine – collects and catalogs found notes, photos, and other interesting items, publishing them in an irregularly-issued magazine, in books, and on its Web site. One of Presley’s found Polaroids is in the FOUND Polaroids book. He has also contributed to the Dirty Found Magazine.

a breif history of assemblage art - “In 1961 the medium of assemblage was given a boost by an exhibition “external image jp_scarlet1.jpgThe Art of Assemblage” at the New York Museum of Modern Art. William C Seitz, the curator of the exhibition, defined the term when he wrote that the assemblages were entirely or in part, their constituent elements are preformed natural or manufactured materials, objects, or fragments not intended as art materials.

SWAPATORIUM – Flea markets, thrift stores, antique shops, garage and estate sales, found photographs, collecting, odd finds, swaps and more

Ephemera – “Exploring the world of old paper” – A blog by Marty Weil, an ephemera dealer, consultant, and researcher. Interviews with many different types of collectors.

Junk Pirate – “Found Art Empire”


Rivers and Tides – a beautiful documentary on Andy Goldsworthy, an artist whose specialty is ephemeral sculptures made from elements of nature. a review of the movie

Richard Long – An artist interested in the documentation of walking, the art of being in a place and subtle interventions inspired from that place. An interview with the artist

Jim Denevan – An artist that makes beautiful sand drawings.

California Current – A 2005 exhibit up and down the Bay area Coastline. The project was initiated to stimulate discussion and awareness in order to foster support for restoration, preservation and sustainable practices for this precious biome, and the greater ocean environment.

“” or “Environmental Art Museum” – a nonprofit, online museum of environmental art, advances creative efforts to improve our relationship with the natural world. They have a large collection of artists making environmental or land art, try to collect writings on the subject, sponsor events, and create a community through discussion, events and workshops.


Resources for “Presley Martin’s Innocence” by Emily Kuenstler:

New Crafts Movement“Of Crafts and Causes” from In These Times magazine – Overview of the crafts movement. Compares Ready-Made magazine with it’s ” college-educated, streamlined, art-school vibe,” to Bazaar Bizarre which is “solidly broke, challenge-the-establishment, rock-kid DIY.” Considers the political influences and possibilites of the movement as a whole.

Relational Aesthetics – “The term ‘relational aesthetics’ was coined in 1996 by French theorist and curator Nicolas Bourriaud to characterize artistic practice in the 1990s. According to Bourriaud, relational art encompasses “a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.” from Wikipedia

Beginner’s Mind

Lee Bontecou – “Whether heroically scaled or intimate, Bontecou’s predominantly abstract work has consistently incorporated figurative, organic, and mechanistic references to states of transformation between the natural and the man-made. From her early sculptures—wall-mounted, three-dimensional objects in which geometric fragments of canvas and other materials are stretched over and fastened onto welded metal framework—to the explosive intricacy of her most recent pieces, many of which are suspended in space, Bontecou’s greatest preoccupation as an artist has been to encompass “as much of life as possible—no barriers—no boundaries—all freedom in every sense.” from the Hammer Museum website
A review of her 2004 retrospective by Donald Goddard

Tom Phillips
A HUMAMENT – Tom Phillips’ eternal work in progress. “With Thames and Hudson’s first trade edition in 1980 A HUMUMENT rapidly became a cult classic. It was seen to be a defining product of post modernism linking traditions as various as medieval illumination, experimental poetry and non-linear narrative with the procedures of modern art.” from
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Richard Pousette-Dart – “the youngest of the Abstract Expressionists, had his first solo exhibition at the Artist’s Gallery, New York in 1941 and subsequently showed with legendary dealers Marian Willard, Peggy Guggenheim and Betty Parsons. Introspective and less gregarious than many of The New York School, Pousette-Dart was highly concerned with the spiritual and the role of the unconscious. He drew inspiration from Native American, African, and Oceanic art, as well as European and American artistic trends and the writings of Freud and Jung.”
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Allan McCollum“He has spent over thirty years exploring how objects achieve public and personal meaning in a world constituted in mass production, focusing most recently on collaborations with small community historical society museums in different parts of the world.” from his website biography

Louise Berliawsky Nevelson - is known for her abstract expressionist “boxes” grouped together to form a new creation. She used found objects or everyday discarded things in her assemblages or assemblies.

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arte povera-”denotes not an impoverished art, but an art made without restraints, a laboratory situation in which a theoretical basis was rejected in favour of a complete openness towards materials and processes.”
 Anita Gibson's Untitled (Nails), Circa 1968 Mario Merz: Cera e Gomma (Wax and Rubber), 1968 Michelangelo Pistoletto: Venus aux chiffons


Land Art/Earth Art – “The move outdoors also involved a rejection of prevailing modernist ideology, and in particular of the critic Clement Greenberg’s notion that the best art had to concentrate on its own formal properties. Artists working outdoors wanted to reconnect the art world and the real world. Their materials were no longer canvas and paint or marble but dirt, sand and steel — even sun and air.” from Michael Heizer: A Sculptor’s Colossus of the Desert, Michael Kimmelman, New York Times, December 12, 1999

Michael Heizer -”His contribution was to go West. The Abstract Expressionists had linked American art with scale. Jackson Pollock’s paintings were said to refer to the Western landscape. Heizer took the idea to its logical next step. He literally made art out of the Western landscape, replacing scale with size: his works didn’t just allude to big things; they were enormous.” from Art’s Last, Lonley Cowboy, Michael Kimmelman, New York Times, Febuary 6, 2005

Robert Smithson – “a pioneer of earthworks, an influential minimalist sculptor, and a brilliant commentator on contemporary art” from a Moca catalogue

Andy Goldsworthy – “He wants rather to embody the beauty of the act of creation in an exemplary intervention. That is why the often irresistible charm of his work does not derive from the final result, but from the beauty of its creation, the deed to which its owes its existence and that remains visible in the end product.” from Andy Goldsworthy: the beauty of Creation, by Stefan Beyst

Ana Mendieta – an artist in the 70′s and 80′s who was interested in feminist issues and performed/created a series of “Siluetta” where either her body or the form of her body was documented in the natural world.

Ann Hamilton – an installation artist known for her large scale environments with copious amounts of fabric and various other materials (such as wool, pennies, pigmented dust, etc)



external image prison%20brick%20red.jpgworn bricks post on Over Under- “. . .Another blunt piece of detritus washing up to shore smooth and illuminated in color. These old bricks litter the beach for old men to kick. 150 years ago, not even the largest French fleet could defeat this wall let alone kick it mockingly. Yet, the old man kicks a brick.”

TPG2 – Discussion

Please use this space to contribute your thoughts and impressions of “Earth-Kiln-Bay-Kiln-Bay”
You are also welcome to start a dicussion relating to the work in any way.

“The Present Group presents” 6.27.07 on networked_performance

Presley in Pasadena. Clay: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth

Xiem Gallery in Pasadena has put on a ceramics show with the theme of Skin. Juried by Paulus Berensohn, and chosen from over 400 entries, Presley Martin (TPG2) has two works in the show.presleypostcard1.jpeg

The show is up from October 13th – November 24th, 2007.

Gallery: 1563 North Lake Avenue Pasadena, CA 91104

Hours: Tuesday- Friday 10am-6pm, Saturday 10am-5pm

TPG #2 Still in Play


This weekend, went to the site of Earth Bay Kiln Bay Kiln from about a year ago. My parents were in town and my mom, a jeweler, is on a sea glass kick. I remembered from back when we spent quite a bit of time with Presley on this beach that this beach was particularly good for sea glass collecting, so I brought her here. To our joy, there are still reminants of Presley’s hand at play here, as they continue to disperse and wear.

We thought it would be fun to post the where abouts of the beach so that anyone who was interested could go and see for themselves. It is a funny little beach in Berkeley. Very few if any people are often on the beach and it is really nice because you can look at the view, take a deep breath, and sit still by yourself for a moment. You may also want to check the tides if you are going cause it fills up at high tide.

Enjoy! If you click on the image of the map it will go to the actual google map.


Our first space!

Sure it’s only for one day, but you gotta start somewhere.



We’re starting in Old Oakland. Where?

465 9th street (9th & Broadway), Oakland. September 5th, 2008, 5-10PM. We’ll be showing TPG7 as well as an (almost) two year Present Group Retrospective. Here’s some more info.

posted: August 29, 2008

Web hosting that supports artists.


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