Heralding the oncoming of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts conference, which starts on March 25th, the David Winton Bell Gallery is hosting the 2015 NCECA Biennial juried exhibition. Fifty works were selected to present an international outlook on the current state of contemporary ceramics in the world today. The vast spectrum of work on display went from the standard ceramics ware to the “wild and crazy”, though I’m not sure how much was left in between. Then again, middling pieces wouldn’t be that which you remember in the long run of any exhibition.
Numerous vessels represented the more practical side of the ceramics spectrum, but with these pieces one looks for those subtle details. One of the first that stood out to me was the very down to earth Firebox Pitcher from Zac Spates that just glowed with pops of color (especially the orange from the Shino slip). Lorna Meaden’s trio of Shot Glasses show a much more deliberate use of color and line. Matt Repsher’s Arch Bottle seems to be from an era of ceramics making long since past, stepping right off the pages of a history book. Then there’s the porcelain Oval Nesting Bowl Set from Clay Leonard. Simple, sleek, and absolutely flawless.
Looking at the non functional ceramics work, there’s no real rhyme or reason at play other than showing the endless potential of what this medium can be. The main entrance piece from Ned Day, Loopapalooza III, sets the limitless possibilities scene with its massive tangled extension cord aesthetic. I wonder how the heck that could have even come off a wheel. There’s a few other installation works (from Amiko Matsuo/Brad Monsma and Misty Gamble) that command your attention, but they distract one’s attention from the stack of bowls tucked away in the corner of the entry.
Back inside the main space, Joshua Clark’s A Handle is a whimsical piece that dares to defy gravity, which I can’t imagine to be an easy feat whilst working with heavy clay. The video installation piece, The Archaeology of Memory- Large Book, from Vlad Basarab links the work to at least the digital age and perhaps the melding of the two. The German Expressionist style music was a nice touch to the piece, but I did find it haunting me throughout the rest of my viewing experience. Janet McPherson’s partially gilt, anthropomorphized rabbit, Monk, brings up literary thoughts of Watership Down and the Redwall series in my mind. And Bonnie Seeman’s Vase finds a striking balance between the pleasant and scientific with many forms of the natural colliding (adding a side of creepy crawlies to the mix as well).
While ceramics are certainly not my forte, I certainly look forward to learning more about this expansive world that has long been unknown to me. Ceramics are quite complex and it is not hard to appreciate that which is masterly crafted and the art found within. I look forward to the imminent flurry of ceramics based exhibitions within the city and beyond as the NCECA conference draws closer.