Clay and Ceramics in Focus

THEASTER GATES Tarred Vessel, 2015 Cotton, metal, glazed clay, plastic, tar, Ceramics, sculpture, vessels, texture

I have intended to write about ceramics and artists using clay in sculpture for quite some time. There is something decidedly tactile and intimate about this material. Either worked by hand or at the potter’s wheel, as a functional object or purely sculptural, clay is used to humane scale. We relate to it with an immediacy that seems to appeal to a primal level of understanding the material and its feel. The rough texture, the finger prints left as a reminder of the manual gesture and the chance elements at the kiln, all add to the interest of these objects.

The divide of art vs. craft persists implicitly, mostly due to the context in which they are exhibited. However, it seems irrelevant at a time when artists and art enthusiasts embrace the world with an eclectic eye, taking influences and mixing objects that bring them pleasure for their aesthetic and conceptual resonances.

I have written about Anton AlvarezElizabeth JaegerMarisa Merz and Francis Upritchard previously. Their work in clay and ceramics would be included in this list otherwise.

Alice Mackler (b.1931, New York) Lives and works in New York.

I encountered her work at Independent NY fair earlier this year and the joy hasn’t left me since. These figurines embody pure innate innocence. The bright coloured red open mouths, the pointy heads and the slump bodies stand confident in their freedom.

ALICE MACKLER, Ceramic , sculpture
Untitled, 2016 Ceramic 20 1/2 × 9 1/2 × 10 in 52.1 × 24.1 × 25.4 cm © Photography by Alan Wiener. Courtesy Jane Hartsook Gallery, Greenwich House Pottery, Kerry Schuss Gallery

Theaster Gates (b.1973, Chicago) Lives and works in Chicago.

Gates makes work focused on racism and poverty in America. He works to make change in downtrodden communities across the country. His practice is grounded in African-American history and culture and in his own experience growing up on the South Side of Chicago. Slavery, industrial exploitation and the Civil Rights Movement feature prominently in his sculptures, installations and performances, into which he incorporates materials such as tar, shoe shine stations and fire hoses.

THEASTER GATES Tarred pot, 2015 Clay, tar, wood, Ceramics, sculpture, vessels, texture
Tarred pot, 2015 Clay, tar, and wood 69 7/10 × 18 × 18 in 177 × 45.7 × 45.7 cm Image courtesy White Cube

Lynda Benglis (b.1941, Louisiana) Lives and works in New York.

At the apex of Minimalism in the 1960s, Benglys challenged patriarchy head on, confronting ideas of power and gender relations. She gained recognition throughout the 60s and 70s with her oozing mounds and floor-spills of latex and foam in bold colours, sometimes cast in bronze, as a response to the clean Minimalist aesthetic. Benglys started working in clay decades later, producing sculptures with a raw industrial aesthetic. Whilst some basic machinery seems to be employed to create the initial shape, the objects retain cuts, rips and manual manipulation that speak about the nature of the material.

LYNDA BENGLIS Elephant Necklace 50, 2016 Glazed Ceramics, sculpture
Elephant Necklace 50, 2016 Glazed Ceramics 11 × 11 × 11 in 27.9 × 27.9 × 27.9 cm Unique
LYNDA BENGLIS LIPAN, 2013 Glazed ceramic, sculpture
Lipan, 2013 Glazed ceramic in two parts 22 × 29 × 16 in 55.9 × 73.7 × 40.6 cm Unique © Lynda Bengalis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY


Matthias Kaiser (b. Austria) Lives and works in Austria.

“I studied at Parsons school of design in NY and at Vienna´s university of applied arts, apprenticed with two japanese master potters in Seto and Karatsu, spent a combined 2 years travelling on the indian subcontinent and for a period of 13 years I was the akhavan of an iranian dervish. my vocation remains. to make pots.” 


Matthias Kaiser, Pot, Ceramics, sculpture, vessels, texture, white
Matthias Kaiser. Cracked slip wayward vases. Image courtesy Flow gallery

Aneta Regel (b. 1976, Poland) Lives and works in London.

Regel creates abstract ceramic sculptures that emulate the natural world. She reinterprets the forms, textures, energies and rhythms of natural phenomena like trees, rocks and riverbeds.Ceramics, sculpture, vessels, texture

Ceramics, sculpture, vessels, texture
Raining Stone, 2017 Glazed stoneware, mixed media 9 21/25 × 9 21/25 × 9 21/25 in 25 × 25 × 25 cm Unique


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