Critics’ Picks

Los Angeles

“Melting Point”

Craft & Folk Art Museum
5814 Wilshire Boulevard
January 28 - May 6

In their inaugural biennial dedicated to clay and its capacities in contemporary artistic practice, the curators of “Melting Point” have brought together a broad and heterogeneous swath of artists. On the one hand, the show speaks meaningfully to a dedicated core of makers and scholars invested in the histories of a medium that has otherwise been marginalized in the predominate discourse on contemporary art. On the other hand, the curation meaningfully reflects a nascent and ever-expanding interest in ceramics from that selfsame contemporary art world. In effect, a big tent is erected in what one hopes will be the first of many more biennials to come.

The works range from Stanton Hunter’s Floor Kintsugi, 2018, wherein the artist repairs small cracks in the institution’s stairwell with bismuth, lead, tin, silica sand, and ceramic stains, to the decadent drippy forms of Anthony Sonnenberg’s white-glazed Chandelier (for Jeffry Mitchell), 2015–16. Sometimes small gestures are the most resonant, as is the case in Jennifer Ling Datchuk’s series “Making Women,” 2014–17, in which porcelain and human hair are brought together to make ad hoc powder puffs. Nearby, Ben Medansky’s Stories, 2017—a triptych clay window, painted vibrant blue and crisscrossed with gestural strokes—could easily be a maquette for a larger commission. It isn’t, but a girl can dream, right? Performance, wet and disintegrating clay, dozens of pots, and other forms that productively move between the realms of architecture and textile—all are here, all are dear.