Over the past year or so, I took mental notes of the art world’s ceramics surge and how contemporary artists like Josh Smith, Paul Wackers and Jiha Moon are bringing clay into their practice while traditional ceramic artists are glazing in the glory.
My first intro to fine art ceramics dates back to 2007 with a Brooklyn-based ceramics artistYoko Inoue at the Rubenstein Museum. She was part of a traveling exhibition Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama, of which an alcove installation of celadon water bottle ceramic banks with Buddha heads tops left a lasting impression and burning desire to have. Soon afterward, through the power of wishful thinking a set of these bottles turned up at a NYFA benefit arts auction. Well…let’s just say I was that Asian dude who tackled my way to the final winning bid (nevah again).
Since then, ceramics have been low on my radar until now. Here are ceramicists of note…
It seems that Matthias Merkel Hess has the magic touch of turning “anything” into ceramics frozen in time. His NY debut at Salon 94 Freeman Alley featured warehouse of a utilitarian everyday objects – quite the chuckle-fest of amazement. Just about anything from rubber (or rather ceramic) chickens and duster busters to ceramic milk crates and Hess’ own knee-cap shaped bowls were ceramicized. As for garbage bins? I’m sure confused many during opening night.
For Eddie Martinez’s “Bad Fog” show at Martos Gallery, Jennie Jieun Lee captured my curiosity for her abstract ceramic masks – ploppy, clunky and ohhhh so grotesquely beautiful. According to Jennie, who’s been working with ceramics sporadically since age 7, “For me, it is easier to translate my thoughts and fears onto clay. Similar to other mind altering substances, I can use it to forget about the outside world and time is lost.” Her next show…Paris!
If Clarice Cliff married Tom of Finland and produced a ceramicist, you’d get Mark Errol. At his MFA show a few weeks ago, the Georgia State Welch Fellow presented an audacious show that encouraged guests to be “touchy feely” with his ceramics only discover that the bottom surfaces revealed a blushingly personal side of the artist. For Mark, his ceramics are as much about aesthetics as they are about look, touch and functionality. “This body of work is a love letter in all forms. It displays my love for functional ceramics, domesticity, sexuality and most of all, my partner and the future we’re building together. It is fun to make seemingly simple functional forms that then require full interactions in order to fully appreciate the story being told.”
Now, ya know ceramics are in vogue when an artist has over-lapping solo shows at two NY heavy-hitting galleries (Galerie Perrotin and Lehmann Maupin). The Czech born Swedish artist Klara Kristalova creates an eerie fantasy world of seemingly cute semi-human characters, but are they really? Keep looking an sense the darkness within their hallowed molds.
Going through Instagram, I tapped upon Cody Hoyt whose angular-shaped ceramics are simmering with buzz – especially for his marbling and inlay techniques which are impressing seasoned ceramists. According to the Greenpoint-based artist, “The medium lets me work in a language that I arrived at by working reductively and by paring down to essentially focus on form and surface. My art needs a certain level of formal complexity to hold my interest, and that’s why the level of intricacy in the patterns and architectural scale of the forms. I’m looking forward to what Cody has in store for his show this month at the hip-central Ace Hotel.
LA-based artist Patrick Jackson shifts downward from his towering ceramic Tchotchke Stacks to an ongoing series of jumbo-sized ceramic mugs — artfully gritty with residue clumps and crystals nestled within the mugs. The disease-textured mugs were quite the lookers during last summer’s “Made in Space” group shows.
And lastly, I couldn’t talk ceramics without mentioning the current Whitney Biennial. Art crit Jerry Saltz deemed Sterling Ruby’s steroid-injected ceramic sculptures as “the best thing in the show,” but for me I’m drawn to the quiet restrain of Shio Kusaka’s ceramic vessels. Her ceramic vases are lovingly rendered in many of her husband Jonas Wood’s paintings — which btw just opened a dual show together at Shane Campbell’s Lincoln Park gallery.
In my mind…there’s a mass appeal and familiarity with ceramics as mostly everyone interacts with it everyday — be it functionality or knick-knackable obsession. The current spotlight breaks down the crafty Capidimonte (there I said it) reputation and now plays nicely into a number of gallery programs – I’m sure many will follow suit. It’s also refreshing to see artists cross over to the kiln side, adding depth, dimension newness to their shows. I’d say a smart creative move to mix it up a bit and express new options for their collector base. For aspiring ceramic artists, now’s the time to crack the mold, experiment and blur the boundaries of ceramics, similar to how the new photography boom has done so successfully. Can’t wait….clay on!