March 25 - May 21
Clay has often been synonymous with craft. From ancient Roman, Greek, and Etruscan pottery to Japanese Oribe ware and eighteenth-century European porcelain, ceramics have frequently been excluded from the realm of the fine art, its practitioners spoken of with such qualifiers as “ceramic artist” or “potter.” Cocurated by Dan Halm and LA-born artist Geo Gonzalez, this exhibition, “UNEARTHED,” brings together seventeen international emerging artists to reveal the expressive potential of the medium beyond its antiquated association with mere vessels. Politics of gender, sexuality, and commodification are addressed alongside more formal approaches to process and material.
Arguably the exhibition’s most affective work, Ben Peterson’s video Cup, 2011, features a topless man intermittently kissing and licking an earthenware cup and then another man. Parallels are drawn, and both become objectified as passive receivers, de-eroticizing the act of kissing and dissolving gender roles into a space of neutrality. Katy Stubbs’s painted plate David Buys Golitha’s Body for One Night of Passion, 2015, humorously plays with the notion of the gaze through a caricatured, voluptuous woman who stares out at the viewer, with someone between her legs, recalling the directness of Édouard Manet’s Olympia, 1863. Carolin Wachter’s “Industrial landscapes,” 2006–15, meanwhile, combines clay and inhabited space in a series of elegant porcelain vessels that recall funneled power-station cooling towers or factories—the handmade meets mass production.
With the visibility of contemporary artists such as Betty Woodman, who recently showed her ceramic work at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, clay is increasingly being celebrated as a mainstream art-world medium capable of addressing our society with a potency beyond the decorative or functional.