Fired up about clay–we take a tour

We talk too much. So when we go out looking at art, we end up talking to everyone we see, which means we see less than we ought to.

Imagine therefore how we jumped at the chance to take a bus ride and see lots of the NCECA clay shows on an enforced schedule. Otherwise we would never get around to them, given our propensity to stop and chat and the shows’ short duration.

The Northern Liberties/Fishtown tour Wednesday was just the ticket. Our tour leader, Casey Porter, is part of the Claymobile posse. He was amazing–energetic, resourceful, and gracious. When Libby ran out of batteries for her camera, he dashed off into the streets and found a pack, selling to whoever in the group had a battery emergency.

Casey McDonough’s springy piece, “synaptic plasticity,” hints at a futuristic cartoon world

Our first stop was the Amber Street studios. The highlights for us were the Multiples of Five exhibit, featuring multiples-based work by five artists–Frederick Bartolovic, Jim Hake, Casey McDonough, Robin Strangfeld, Blake Jamison Williams.

Jim Hake’s Fbriend Project uses crockery-inspired media for a contemporary statement about Facebook and other forms of internet networking.

Jim Hake’s Fbriend Project contemplates the transformation of our relationships via the internet, creating portraits of friends via a simulation of pixillation, using one of the oldest methods possible, clay.

Robin Strangfeld, in Multiples of 5. She dips paper labels in clay slip and fires them. The paper disintegrates and the front and back separate becoming two pieces. It’s very delicate. The site-specific piece adjusts to the size of the wall she’s working with.

From Casey McDonough’s synaptic plasticity, with its cartoon-like suggestion of futuristic life to Robin Strangfield’s Minimalist grid of tags to Blake Jamison Williams’ maximalist floral floor piece to Frederick A. Bartolovic’s landscape/map of a grid of ceramic pillows, this show captured our attention.

Baltimore Clayworks exhibit at Amber St. Lots of pottery on pedestals and these nice stoneware cats by Trish Kyner.

Our bus companions were more engrossed by another exhibit in the same space–work by the Baltimore Clayworks. The techniques here were what held peoples’ attention.

While Libby admired the array of potters wheels at all price ranges, Roberta wanted to buy one of the chunky little kilns–a bright metal boxe on legs — just to have it. Kilns are pretty nifty and we admire the idea of a home kiln.

From 3239 N. Amber, we walked over to 3245 N. Amber where we discovered an impressive store for ceramic artists, The Ceramic Shop. Well, we don’t know much about what clay artists need, but we were impressed anyway by the arrays of goods.

Here’s our tour guide, Casey Porter, left, in the Ceramic Shop where several people bought supplies, like Sherry, from California, who found the perfect portable sponge.

Mark Lueders, who owns the shop and a large clay studio that offers classes, also organized a group exhibit of ceramic work. Even though The Ceramic Shop had contacted us in the past, we somehow never absorbed what they were up to. Now we know! This place is clearly a supply destination.  By the way, we also ran into Nick Lenker who works for the Ceramic Shop and has a studio there.  Lenker, who has two shows open now, at Bambi and Pageant, said his collaborator on the Bambi show, Paul Swenbeck, also has a studio there, as does Shannon Bowser, who made the concrete countertop in the checkout zone of the shop.

Daniel Forrest Hoffman, a non-functioning “film reel” showing the SS United States going nowhere fast.

At FLUXspace we saw two shows. Constructs, with Dylan Beck, Kate Dowell and Daniel Forrest Hoffman, all alums of Tyler’s ceramics program, includes work from Hoffman that isn’t ceramic at all. His primitive film/flip-book-like machines argue about stasis vs. motion. We met Hoffman while we were there, and he explained that his largest piece was about the world’s fastest ship, the S.S. United States, which is permanently docked going nowhere, in Philadelphia. Hoffman’s elaborate piece suggests film reels and motion–and stasis.

Si-Ying Ho, Hero Series no. 1, porcelain, high fire reduction, hand-painted cobalt images, computer decal transfer, terra sigillata, 15.5 x 11.25 x 8.25 inches

Also at FLUX, Si-ying Ho’s work stands out in the downstairs exhibit A Post Production Moment.  Her anti-vases with cartoon-y shapes incorporate Eastern and Western imagery. Others in the show are Jelena Gazivoda, Kate Doody, Benjamin Schulman, Danielle Richter, and Mat Karas.

Daniel Forrest Hoffman, Self Portrait
Dennis Ritter, Untitled, 2010, sagger fired porcelain, salt oxides, soft brick, at Tyler School of Art

At Tyler, we saw a terrific range of work that bodes well for the future of ceramics as an art form. We loved a video of Hoffman adding clay wrinkles to his face. Among the outstanding work there were Dennis Ritter’s saggy little punctuation mark critters, Eric O’Neill’s Frankstein’s Monster, in which the bust of the monster stares down his own portrait–shades of Dorian Grey–and nearby Jason Kusmak’s Jazor the Destructible, a chunky ruin of a futuristic monster.

Matthew Ziemke, Consumption Rendering No. 1, 2010, wood, ceramic, acrylic, enamel, mixed media

We also were impressed by some installations by Matthew Ziemke, including Consumption Rendering No. 1, suggested farmland swallowed and incinerated by the toxic industrial landscape–a nice union of materials, method and concepts.

At Highwire, work by Puneeta Mittal attracted one of our tour companions to buy a piece.  And at Rocket Cat cafe, where we didn’t have nearly enough time to take a coffee break, we visited an array of mugs by local artists that took over one of the walls there.

Rocket Cat was supposed to be our half-way break, but there wasn’t enough time for everyone to order. And there was no hope of a break until the tour was scheduled to end, after 2 p.m. One starving member of the group let everyone know just how much she wanted that Rocket Cat breakfast burrito.

Look for part 2 of this post soon.