Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Breaking Ground: Innovations with clay at the Kimball Art Center

Walk into the Kimball Art Center in Park City and the space feels open, warm, and inviting.  It’s quiet, but there’s a comfort to the quietness, much like one would find at a library or a cozy café.  It’s a place perfect for contemplation, and through April 16 visitors are invited to consider the nature of ceramic art in Groundbreaking: Innovations In Clay, an exhibition that certainly lives up to its name.  The show features 12 artists, each with a distinct voice. From large, complex sculptures to delicately thrown plates displayed as wall paintings, none of the pieces appears to be anything less than innovative.

Each piece tells its own unique story. There are some classical ideas of what ceramics should be, but they are transformed by their presentation within the space.  The exhibition seamlessly blends conventional techniques with the unconventional; muted colors are countered with bright pops of neon green, pink, and orange.  Each artist has a unique point of view, allowing the viewer to experience their pieces, and then look across the room and identify another, creating a dynamic movement within the space.

The stark differences between each of the artists’ points of view can be seen clearly when walking through the gallery space.  One of the largest pieces in the room is also one of the most temporary. “Taking/Giving” by Alwyn O’Brien is composed of hundreds of delicate coils of clay that have been pressed onto the wall to form a series of images — a narrative that flows down and across the wall and ends crossing one corner. Already, pieces of this delicate work have fallen off the wall as they dried, leaving red clay dust where they once were. On the opposite side of the room, installations of brightly glazed rings of red clay pop with color and unconventional treatment of glazing, like Lauren Mabry’s “Spilling Fragment.” The bright glazes combine and spill out of the ceramic piece onto the pedestal, looking like an accident or a moment of inspiration caught in stasis.

Other artists juxtapose each other more starkly. The rugged anthropomorphic pieces by Andy Nasisse and delicate wire-and-clay creations by Adam Shiverdecker create one of the most interesting moments in the walk through the gallery – Nassise’s work appears firm in its place, solid, sure of itself, all while evoking the delicate stability of rock formations that have lasted for thousands of years. The pieces by Shiverdecker look like they are barely holding together, the wire seemingly stretched between the tops and bottoms of two of his pieces, giving the impression that he managed to capture them in a moment of explosion, creating a dynamic sense of movement where there could have been nothing but simple, albeit beautiful amphorae.

One of the most unconventional pieces in the gallery is the one that is closest to the entrance – one that doesn’t call upon the vision of a single artist, but instead offers opportunities for participation. This is a collaborative piece that anybody can add anything they want to, using the clay provided by the Kimball Art Center and a little imagination. This piece draws the public into the medium, allowing anyone to gain a tactile sense of what the exhibition is made of, and to contribute to a larger piece. It also brings the viewer an immediate sense of participation, something that for some will be a groundbreaking experience in a gallery space.

Curated by Nancy Stoaks, this is the first exhibition at the Kimball comprised solely of ceramics, and it has a refreshing take on presentation. Each of the artists has worked within their own style, creating a show that is a unique blend of innovation, creativity, and personality. Groundbreaking: Innovations In Clay, is just what it claims to be.

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