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Jet Set Saturdays: “Keramik” at the Pacific Design Center

Photo- Joshua White 2010-3941

Mitsuko Ikeno, Portraits of Families, 2010 (installation view). Photo by Joshua White.

Deep inside the Pacific Design Center’s “Blue Whale,” one can find “Keramik” — an exhibition of unorthodox ceramic works co-curated by Monique van Genderen and Roger Herman. If you’re not in the home-décor industry, you’re unlikely to be in the building beyond its “Design Loves Art” art openings, when a lively turnout temporarily transforms its otherwise mortuary-like environment.

Photo- Joshua White 2010-3916

Matthias Merkel Hess, Brutes, 2010 (installation view). Photo by Joshua White.

How might a typical designer seeking faux gilt chairs and three thousand dollar lighting fixtures react if, in seeking that perfect vase for a client’s dream-home, they came upon Matthias Merkel Hess’ large replicas of trash receptacles in the showroom window that he’s entitled “Brutes”? Or farther inside, Tam van Tran’s pots with remnants of half-dead plants, Michael Reafsnyder’s goofy blobs that are redolent of Play Doh experiments, and Christopher Miles’ monstrous heads on metal poles? Not to mention tray tables and palettes for pedestals. If security cameras could only capture such moments of encounter…

Photo- Joshua White 2010-3914

Christopher Miles, Noggin #7 and Noggin #8, 2010; Roger Herman, Pot (installation view). Photo by Joshua White.

Gallery says: “The relationship to clay for many of these fifteen artists is like speaking a second language; some of us have a heavier accent than others. We see these works in terms of the artist relationship to technique and how they manipulate it for their own means. Perhaps some of these artists are forging new ground … introducing things to the world of ceramics through the back door of our art exhibition. Before asking any questions about the context of the space, this exhibition is fresh air breathed into the life space of the design center, resuscitating the arena for arts’ sake


Michael Reafsnyder, Glazey, 2009. Photo by Joshua White.


Anna Sew Hoy, Ghost, 2010 (installation view). Photo by Joshua White.

There are many playful works in the show, including Mitsuko Ikeno’s wall mounted, stuffed-animal inspired figurines, which marry childhood fantasy with dark, grown-up humor. The most engaging works find resonance in combining the concrete and amorphous qualities of molded clay with sinuous, drippy glazes. Miles’ misshapen, space-alien portraits resonantly do with their anthropomorphic features, collapsing orifices, and pock marked surfaces. Textured with a corrugated pattern, some of van Tran’s pieces suggest architectural models for futuristic cities.

Photo- Joshua White 2010-3924

Tam van Tran, Painters Midnight Light, 2008 (installation view). Photo by Joshua White.

Many of the artists in Keramik are better known as painters, and despite not having formally or extensively trained in ceramics, have chosen to flirt with its seductive, malleable qualities. Van Genderen’s inventive clay paintings exemplify this via her attention to color and form, while Hess, Herman, David Korty, Erik Otsea, Adam Silverman, and Shoshi Kanokohata all refer to more traditional practices of the medium. But even they defy expectations, because the work they’ve created refutes and transcends function — a key component of clay-based craft. One might then expect a yin and yang balance of two extremes in this show – 3-D/sculptural versus 2-D/painterly. What a relief that the curators didn’t attempt to fit everything into reductive categorizations. The result is an arresting subversion of the earth-based media’s convention.

Like the artists of Keramik, I too want to play. I’m off to plant tomatoes and fling dirt (gently) at any meddlesome cats[.]

Keramik is on view through May 29th, 2010.

This post was contributed by Anne Martens.

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Jet Set Saturdays: “Keramik” at the Pacific Design Center