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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Turning Clay into Art

Ceramics on display at Tory Folliard Gallery

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Tory Folliard Gallery celebrates the avant-garde and innovative definition of clay in two exhibitions curated by Chris Berti. Both pay tribute to ceramics being collected or studied by the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts conference that traveled to Milwaukee this spring.

In the first exhibition, Berti recycles clay¾bricks, drainage pipes, tiles¾and carves directly into these disposables in his exhibition “Concerning Nature.” With more than 80 artworks on display, Berti meticulously creates moths, pill bugs and slugs by sculpting their hidden beauty from vintage relics.

In one particularly functional and poignant piece, Hand Platter, Berti sculpts two open hands on opposite sides of a long narrow drainage pipe. With palms up, the hands present a profound metaphor for offering bread—often seen as the “staff of life”—that can be broken and shared.

In Folliard’s second exhibition, “The Figure in Clay,” 15 artists displayed in the main gallery transform the mundane material of clay into objects viewed as fine art, demonstrating excellence in imagery, ingenuity and technique.

Exemplary of this group of 15 is Chris Antemann, who synthesizes traditional Baroque porcelain figures for her contemporary adaptations, including a playful man and woman paired side by side in a ceramic Coffee, Tea or Me. Using hand painting and applied decals channeled from her collaboration with the prestigious Meissen porcelain factory, this romantic pair lounge in an undressed state, sitting prettily in their French provincial chairs while dining on delicious sweets. Antemann’s color and details applied in these delicate figurines illustrate how sublime sculpting clay can become.

Another artist, Heidi Preuss Grew, incorporates the legendary Limoges porcelain in her fantastical relief sculptures, Marvelous Monsters. By slicing layers of clay directly from the raw block, the grooves remain in the material to create texture on the dark earthenware tableaux she then uses as her canvas. She applies the white Limoges porcelain to the earthenware, contrasting her primarily androgynous morphed figures with the chocolate brown earthenware and crossing the lines between painting and sculpture.

Tory Folliard Gallery presents Chris Berti’s “Concerning Nature” and “The Figure in Clay,” featuring Chris Antemann, Tom Bartel, Mark Chatterley, Lisa Clague, Laszlo Fekele, Debra Fritts, Arthur Gonzalez, Michael Gross, Beth Lo, Ron Meyers, Laura O’Donnell, Heidi Preuss Grew, Kevin Snipes, Richard Swanson and Sunkoo Yuh through April 19. For more information, visit toryfolliardgallery.com.