Fired up about clay, the tour — Part 2

This post continues the tale of our NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) shuttle bus tour on Mar. 31 of ceramics exhibits in the Fishtown/Northern Liberties parts of town.

Little Berlin

“Scene,” an international show organized by Jennifer Woodin at Little Berlin is spare and a little chilly. The grid of ceramic knots held up by wire by Henny Linn Kjellberg (of Sweden) reminded us of how many other grids we had seen that day — at Tyler, up on Amber St. and elsewhere.  Grids are great, but we had trouble conversing with the ceramic knots in the 3-D grid and wondered if the piece had more to say to ceramic artists.

Henny Linn Kjellberg at Little Berlin

Jennifer Woodin, porcelain and copper, at Little Berlin

Jennifer Woodin’s pristine white porcelain urinals all connected via pristine copper plumbing pipes left us hoping for more Duchampian content. But plumbing is definitely in the air since we saw another instance of pipes on the wall at Tyler.

Student work at Tyler with plumbing pipes suggested near the drinking fountain. We think the piece is by senior Colin Magness. If we got it wrong, let us know.

Speaking of echoes, the photo sequence by Ane Fabricius Christiansen at Little Berlin — which flummoxed us but was understandable to the ceramic artists around us — pictured an unfired clay cup slowly disintegrating in water and falling to the bottom of a sink.

A tour member drinking tea and looking at Ane Fabricius Christiansen’s photos of a ceramic cup in water.

Later on at Projects Gallery, a piece by Todd Leech, “Drowning” with a figure made of unfired clay lying in shallow water surrounded by medical drip bags showed the real thing — clay in water busy falling apart. We had to flee the scene, whose visual decay and moist almost-noticeable scent did not please.   Likewise, the message about medicine killing seems a bit pat. But folks will disagree, and we note here that at least one of our group thought that Leech’s installation was fantastic.


Crane Arts

Colette Fu, lightbox image from Medium Resistance in the Crane’s Icebox

As usual, there was much to see at the Crane. We ran through the place, happy to see a couple of print shows as well as the ceramics.  Medium Resistance — the Southern Graphic Council/Philagrafika print show in the Icebox is very good. We especially love Colette Fu’s light box photo collages which are over-the-top pop culture mash-ups; Carl Pope’s Black power/bad-ass poster wall; and Martin Mazorra’s posters, especially the one riffing on bird poop (ah, pigeons, live in a city do you, Martin?).


Michael Beitz, Sofa Legs, cast etching, ink and plaster, about 8″ at Nexus — a print show.

The other print show we saw, Extra-dimensional Printmaking Invitational at Nexus, turned up a couple of cartoon-raunchy drawings on plaster by Michael Beitz. We loved the bent penis piece (not shown-it reminded us of all the plumbing pipes we’d been seeing).

University of Delaware @Crane Arts

Syd Carpenter, in the group show, Catalyze This: Contemporary Ceramic Practices, at UDel at the Crane

Syd Carpenter’s work in Catalyze This at the University of Delaware @Crane space is a knockout.   Carpenter’s compact and abstracted landscapes have virtuoso technique and smoldering content about the past, the body, and the earth.  Our admiration was equalled by the admiration of all the clay aficionados on the tour. The artist has a solo exhibition of related work right now at Sande Webster Gallery and she curated an NCECA exhibit, Fertile Ground, at the Philadelphia Horticultural Center.

Roberta, taking a picture of an interactive, motorized piece by Kenny Delio that cast a dancing shadow.

Downstairs the show has a couple of wonderful mechanical and video works that reminded us that we’d seen smart robotic, mechanical and video works there before — a definite strength of this school gallery.

Affirmation, Adam Abel’s computer animation and stop-action animation at UDel @Crane, downstairs.


Meanwhile, the boys of darkness, Nick Lenker and Paul Swenbeck, teamed up for a collaborative show at Bambi that proves that unbridled imaginations can often think alike.

Through a mirror darkly at Bambi with Nick Lenker and Paul Swenbeck

The shiny black “mirror mirror on the wall” takes us to Snow White territory as well as to oil slicks and black ice and Elvira, queen of late night tv horror movies.

Nick Lenker, Paul Swenbeck, collaborative work at Bambi

In addition to the predominace of the color black here, and the suggestion of mountains that are castles in the clouds where dark torture takes place (all in good imaginative fun), we love the combination of large installations — and little works that you could definitely buy and take home for your wall or secret wardrobe in the bedroom. Swenbeck also has work at Fleisher-Ollman and as we mentioned earlier, Lenker has a solo show at Pageant.

We were on the tour from 9-2 and covered a lot of turf, but hang in there we’re almost through!

Projects Gallery

Richard Cleaver, Cult of the Tsar III, in To Die For at Projects Gallery

Projects Gallery’s large group show To Die For includes some gems like Richard Cleaver’s altar piece, Cult of the Tzar III, that looks like it may be in honor of rapscallions everywhere. There’s a sense of good old boys standing guard over a precious Faberge egg honoring Marx, Rasputin and …men in beards. We love the piece’s ornate completeness and its odd (to us) subject matter.

Peter Gourfain, Sophie Scholl, 1943

Elsewhere, Peter Gourfain’s muscular statuette, Sophie Scholl, from 1943, breathed like something out of Kathe Kollwitz come to life. Gourfain, an activist artist, made the work in honor of Scholl, who was a Nazi resister.


Sergei Isupov, the piece in Wexler’s window that we just had to go in and see. There’s another complete (female) head on the back.

Finally, back in Old City we’re off to an appointment to see Luella Tripp at her brand new gallery LGTripp, but passing by Wexler Gallery,  a standout ceramic bust by Sergei Isupov in the window drew us right in. The zen/ghetto/putti affect coupled with that intense Krishna-blue skin is quite a winner.  You can’t quite tell the scale but the piece might be 20-30″ tall.  Inside, the piece keeps on giving–there’s a relief bust of a woman.  Nice one.

Irina Zaytceva, Cat’s Cradle, 2010. porcelain, handbuilt, handpainted and 24K gold lustre,  4-1/2 x 9 x 10 1/2″

Upstairs we tiptoed through the masses viewing the hotbed of erotica in “The Hermaphrodites,” noticing lots of red gumdrops on the pedestals which we assume means the piece sold.

You may know, NCECA has brought some 6,000 registrants to Philadelphia to talk about ceramics this weekend.   There are many more ceramics exhibits in town and artblog will be covering more of them in the next week.