Art I’d Buy: Ceramics

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Ceramics are having a moment. Sterling Ruby  and John Mason are exhibiting ceramic sculptures in the Whitney Biennial. John Yau began his glowing review of Kathy Butterly’s show with a long list of recent and current exhibitions dedicated to fired clay. Locally, The Walters has brought Contemporary Japanese Ceramics to Baltimore, while The Sackler Gallery in DC showcases an ancient Chinese ceramic storage container dating back 800 years and the various replicas it inspired. Yesterday, towards the end of her lecture at MICA’s Falvey Hall, Janine Antoni said, “I’m in love with clay.”

There’s good reason to love clay. Working with clay is an ancient way of making and manipulating material. Ceramic objects are the cultural remnants that have survived to tell us about our history and even prehistory. As a material, the composition and tactility of clay is familiar. Even if you’ve never thrown a pot on a wheel or molded clay, you know what a mixture of earth and water feels like. Working with clay is an immediate interaction with a visceral material dug out of the earth. And, the practical and aesthetic applications of this materials are so numerous, they are still being discovered.

This week’s ‘Art I’d Buy’ focuses on Ceramics!

Artist: Brett Freund
Title: Crystal Jar #3
Price: $90 (price range: $30 – $200) 
Status: Available
Baltimore Connection: local

Brett Freund makes sometimes functional but always striking porcelain objects. The forms mimic both the accumulation of crystal formations and dense urban architecture. The combination of semi-transparent glaze and line work call to mind freshly painted melting graffiti. I was immediately drawn to Brett’s work because the material gamut of clay is visible – from fluid, to tacky, to hard and angular.

Artist: Bianka Groves
Title: Oval Nesting Bowls
Price Range: $30 – $200
Status: Sold, but new work will be added to the online shop soon!
Baltimore Connection: local

Bianka Grove’s minimal vessels look like expansive landscapes. These ceramic nesting bowls are reminiscent of delicate Chinese ink paintings, a fog over low hills type of scene. Other containers and bowls suggest dense winter forests. All of her works share a minimal palette, defined yet searching lines, and a sense of meditative tranquility.

Artist: Shin Yeon Jeon
Title: Moon Jar
Price + Status: Contact the artist
Baltimore Connection: local

Shin Yeon Jeon’s ceramic sculptures are often figurative. However, this jar from her Moon Jar series stands out to represent the human presence through a different approach, as if mapping a path through a cosmic void. Shin’s background in painting is evident in her gestural application of glaze and mixing of color.


Artist: Andrew Gilliatt 
Title: Mix Tape Vase
Price: $130 (price range: $48 – $150)
Status: Available
Baltimore Connection: Internet (Andrew lives in Montana)

Andrew Gilliatt’s functional pottery is heavily patterned and offers striking (and somewhat retro) color combinations. His penchant for repeat patterning and controlled glaze application offer a result more often associated with textile processes than with clay. His other creations include a picnic ants sandwich plate, a thundercloud mug,  a  wiener bowl, and a bread-tie vase.


Artist: Kyle Bauer
Title and size: Bollard #1 (for florida) – 18″ x 8″ x 8″ & P.F.D|Yoke – 24″ x 14″ x 16″
Price: $200 each (price range: $200 – $1000)
Status: Available, contact the artist
Baltimore Connection: local

While I was familiar with Kyle Bauer’s larger mixed media sculptures, these smaller works were a surprise.  Kyle’s larger works are human-scaled. They are colorful and striped characters which interrupt, guide, and playfully interact with the viewer on his or her path through the exhibition space. In that vein, these two smaller works are akin to signs or obstacles built out of porcelain, wood, astroturf, foil paper, metal, and rope. I can’t shake the feeling that these very specific objects are perfectly shaped keys to a portal. You can see his larger works on exhibit currently in School 33‘s ‘Without Boundaries’ exhibit.


Artist: Ben Medansky
Title: Stout Hoop Vessel
Price: $180 (price range: $40 – $275)
Status: Available
Baltimore Connection: Internet (Ben lives in California)

Ben Medansky’s portfolio is full of sexy textured neutrals with bright pops of electric blue and shiny gold. The objects are playful, charming, and elegant while retaining a hand-built slightly awkward quality. There’s single coils of vibrant blue fired clay and piles of white coils with gold detailing. There’s also the dish with too many legs and this Stout Hoop Vessel with many extra handles. It doesn’t hurt that this reminds me of yogurt covered pretzels (which are delicious).

* Author Lu Zhang is a Baltimore-based artist and a Managing Editor at Bmoreart. Lu also works at The Contemporary and teaches part-time at MICA

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