Press Release  January 23, 2018

CAFAM presents Melting Point: Movements in Contemporary Clay

Courtesy of the artist.

Anthony Sonnenberg, Vase (My Kind of Witches Cauldron), porcelain, stoneware, found ceramic objects, underglaze, glaze, 2017.


The Craft & Folk Art Museum
5814 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

January 28 - May 6, 2018

LOS ANGELES, CA - The Craft & Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) presents Melting Point: Movements in Contemporary Clay, a group exhibition of 22 artists whose experimental manipulation of clay expands the technical, aesthetic, and metaphoric potential of the ceramic object. Organized around the themes of anti-disciplinary process, object temporality, and sociopolitical interpretations, the exhibition presents sculpture, site-specific installation, time-based work, and performance. Melting Point: Movements in Contemporary Clay launches CAFAM’s new biennial series of large-scale, thematic exhibitions focusing on divergent practices in contemporary ceramics. The exhibition is on view January 28 through May 6, 2018.

“CAFAM is incredibly excited to launch its first clay biennial and our larger ceramics initiative,” says CAFAM executive director Suzanne Isken. “With this exhibition series and our increased number of public programs focusing on clay, we are expanding our commitment to exhibiting diverse artists who push the envelope with a broad range of approaches to material and concept.”

“A larger spotlight has been placed on ceramics recently, and we wanted to take the opportunity to mark this moment of increased interest in clay from a craft perspective, featuring artists who are all heavily invested in the material,” say curators Holly Jerger and Andres Payan. “These artists possess a deep understanding of clay and its processes, history, and potential. Their dynamic range of works exemplifies the aesthetic and conceptual expansion we have witnessed in the ceramics field over the last couple of decades.”

Since the 2000s, many ceramic artists have expanded on ideas first explored in the California Clay Movement of the 1950-60s by challenging traditional ceramic processes that result in perfect, fired forms. Instead, they choose to experiment with multiple firings and accumulated glazes to generate unknowable, dense sculptural forms that defy perfection. Ohio-based artist Matt Wedel’s Flower Trees (2011) are large-scale, angular botanical forms that are coated with heavy, unconventional glazes. Southern California-based Cheryl Ann Thomas reinterprets the traditional coiling method by using very thin coils that collapse upon firing. She often puts two vessels in the kiln at once, causing both to collapse on each other to create a single, unpredictable form.

Several artists explore the temporality of clay through time-based works and performance. New York artist Walter McConnell’s large-scale enclosed environments contain works made with unfired clay that morph over the course of the exhibition. Los Angeles artist Armando Cortes examines the value of manual labor in his performative piece, which includes dragging a large piece of black clay into the gallery for its eventual breakdown. Los Angeles-based Wayne Perry will use his artist residency at CAFAM to throw vessels on-site and add them to his installation of unfired pots that will change over time.

Artists in the exhibition also use the ceramic object to address personal and political concerns. St. Louis-based Kahlil Robert Irving’s installation series Undocumented was created in the aftermath of the Ferguson uprising, with a multitude of black glazed vessels congregated atop a scaffold to signify a gathering of Black bodies in both celebration and resistance. San Antonio artist Jennifer Ling Datchuk navigates beauty standards and her mixed Chinese and European identity through a series of porcelain powder puffs embellished with human hair.

The featured artists are Brian Benfer, Susannah Biondo-Gemmell, Ling Chun, Armando Cortes, Patsy Cox, Julia Haft-Candell, Stanton Hunter, Kahlil Robert Irving, Trevor King, Jennifer Ling Datchuk, Linda Lopez, Walter McConnell, Ben Medansky, Jonathan Mess, Kristen Morgin, Wayne Perry, Jami Porter Lara, Brian Rochefort, Anthony Sonnenberg, Emily Sudd, Cheryl Ann Thomas, and Matt Wedel.

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