REVIEW | SOFA no. 2: Ceramics

SOFA no. 2: Ceramics

Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design

November 5 – 8, 2015 | Chicago, IL

There is an innate calling to clay, a material that despite or in lieu of its form, cannot be ignored. It beckons to be seen, to be touched, to be used – romantic, but sincere. The showings of ceramics at this year’s fair were outstanding, so many of the works were innovative, and sexy; or more simply put: sublime. These are but a few that I can’t stop thinking about.

Large Tassels by James Rigler (presented by Craft Scotland) is an ostentatious collection of six enormous citrus-dipped ceramic tassels dangling from thick rope and wooden pegs. Led by thoughts of ruined and abandoned ancient places, romantic landscapes and stage sets, Rigler masterfully manipulates material, scale, form, and decoration to examine the power of architecture and its ornaments, the details that form the notion of place monumental and grand. Oversized and bold, Rigler’s objects are decidedly celebratory, emphatic, and full of epic presence. As an installation of an often unconsidered object cut adrift from their original contexts, these tassels challenge any awareness of the commonplace (the invisible) or the ideas of significance in the built environment that surrounds me. They are a not-so-subtle nudge to cherish the details, the elements that make spaces and places (and the human experience in many ways) special – a reminder that in the end, adoration and appreciation at the micro level is what truly reveals our personal values; and more importantly, what we value as a society.

Lindsay Pichaske’s blurred animal/human hybrids (presented by Duane Reed Gallery) raise poignant questions about complicated and broad topics of the personal and collective human experience: how do we separate human from animal? Where, if at all, is the border between the real and the imagined, or the beautiful and the repugnant, the living and dying or the creator and the made? To address these questions, and more, Pichaske conjures works such as Diana, a ceramic animal head glazed with cascading, blonde human hair. Impeccably realistic but imaginary, it is at once familiar but foreign, seductive but disturbing, dead but somehow teeming with life. I implicitly want to reach out to caress the spot between the pointed ears of this preserved unknown, but I do not – my role here is now entirely in question. By turning my understanding of animals and species (and materials for that matter) on its head, Pichaske lessens the confidence I have in trusting what I see and have so readily defined for myself in the past; in art and in life.

Cristina Córdova (presented by Ann Nathan Gallery) connects the modern with the ancient in her powerful and unsettling ceramic figures. En la Montaña, which translates to In the Mountain, is an intense work featuring a woman with crisp white eyes being overcome by her clinging surroundings – her midnight blue hands, feet, and head are all that remain visible, her figure camouflaged by the vegetation that envelopes her. The interesting question posed then is whether this amalgamation is voluntary or compulsory? Cordova’s power is in her ability to depict the inner tortures and struggles of her subjects in their overwhelmed and realistic features, yet without outward exaggeration. She is able to express emotion so densely in her characters (and often through just the eyes) that she evokes a commanding flood of emotion in me as the viewer – feelings of sadness and cravings to nurture are inescapable. Córdova’s work is overwhelming and leaves me with a heavy heart, forcefully shoving me into a place of great depth that perhaps I haven’t explored, to either rescue or be lost. And yet, as I walk away with feelings of uncertainty, I am assured that the unknown is a place I would like to return.

Urns, a softly colored set of porcelain vessels accentuated by gold luster by Peter Pincus (presented by Wexler Gallery), are a delicious visual battle between painting and sculpture, between color and form. Each elegant urn unapologetically asserts its regal 17th- and 18th-century authority, serving as the backbone for the unexpected and delightfully vibrant pattern that dances perfectly over and around its surface. Declaring such bold conflicts, Pincus creates a curious friction that pushes me to the edge of what it means for a vessel to be decorative versus what is means to be utilitarian. What is recreation and what is academic? And further, do such distinctions matter? Regardless of the which side of the question I fall, I feel reassured that it isn’t about knowing per se; but rather, to find the edge where discord and harmony intersect and be willing to draw a new line in the sand. Pincus has found the sweet spot, and I will happily follow where he leads.

Initially trained as a jeweler, Luiza Vogt (presented by Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h) explores sugar as subject in her petite and refined works Zuckerdose (2) and Zuckerschale (pictured left), each translates to mean Sugar Bowl. First sculpted from sugar beets, and then transformed into bone china and Carrara marble, Vogt crafts precious vessels for the rather ambiguous yet controversial ingredient that has served as a source of pleasure, energy, medicine, and disease throughout history. Small enough to fit in the shape of my cupped hands, these utilitarian and organic forms become personal, cherished even. Moving far beyond the notion of the everyday, Vogt elevates the commonplace into something very special.

Ju-Cheol Yun’s exquisite porcelain vessels Cheomjang 141025 and Cheomjang 141017 (presented by KCDF) illustrate sophisticated research into both ceramic techniques and aesthetics. Combining slip-casting, slip-brushing and a new surface decoration method, which originally descends from the Korean Buncheong, he is pushing the boundaries of what clay as a material can produce with exceptional results. Each work displays extraordinary life-like qualities: bulbous forms perfectly sculpted as if they are breathing and I am witnessing the inhale that is about to burst. The muted tones of the forms are the ideal background for the the glistening, metallic hair-like spikes protruding from every soft curve and the opulent stopper keeping their contents sealed. Yun’s ability to capture and suspend the material, without evidence of the hand or breaks in the surface, is an exciting invitation into a new territory of ceramic work.

Also working in porcelain and presented by KCDF, the Untitled series by Jong-Min Lee is an arresting collection of non-functioning vases. Meant to evoke the mysterious simplicity characteristic of ceramics created in the Joseon Dynasty (which they do); it is when I draw close that I find enlightened ornamental patterns pedantically carved into their surfaces. Referencing actions found in the natural world: waves breaking, water flowing, or leaves and trees billowing in the wind, Lee captures the most sensitive aspects of the seasons in his sensual and sinewy rounded objects. They are simple, yet intoxicating – elaborate depictions of the world as it exists without us.

For more information about these artists and galleries, visit: And be sure to make plans to attend next year’s fair: November 3 – 6, 2016

*Author’s note: Lindsay Pichaske was a Louise & Maurice eye spy artist in November 2015. For more, visit:!Lindsay-Pichaske/coep/igiywiep26

Images (from top to bottom): James Rigler, Large Tassels (detail), 2015, ceramic, rope, wooden pegs, 180 x 120 x 30 centimeters, presented by Craft Scotland; James Rigler, Large Tassels, 2015, ceramic, rope, wooden pegs, 180 x 120 x 30 centimeters, and Chimera Bench, 2015, ceramic, mdf, laminate, 80 x 50 x 50 centimeters, presented by Craft Scotland; Lindsay Pichaske, Diana, 2015, low-fire ceramic with human hair, paint, 20 x 13 x 8 inches, presented by Duane Reed Gallery; Cristina Córdova, En la Montaña, 2015, stoneware, metal, resin, 44 x 19 x 6 inches, presented by Ann Nathan Gallery; Peter Pincus, Urns, 2015, colored porcelain, gold luster, 24 x 12 x 30 inches (set), presented by Wexler Gallery; Luiza Vogt, Zuckerschale, 2014, bone china porcelain, 4 x 5 x 4 inches (Approx), presented by Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h; Yun Ju-Cheol, Cheomjang 141025, porcelain, and Cheomjang 141017, porcelain, presented by KCDF; Jong Min Lee, Untitled, white porcelain clay, presented by KCDF

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