Wookjae Maeng creates ceramic sculptures filled with animal characters. Often gathered together in stylized arrangements, Maeng’s works utilize the shapes of these creatures in surreal ways that bare little resemblance to nature. This disorienting effect is intentional: One of Maeng’s goals is to make his viewers consider humans’ impact on the environment and the way we often thoughtlessly manipulate nature to suit our own ends. “In my work I hope to provide an opportunity — however brief — for modern man to consider the realities of the environment in which he exists, even as he continues his daily existence indifferent to it,” he says.
While Dirk Staschke’s past work has had a meticulously polished look, his latest series of sculptures for his upcoming solo show, “Executing Merit” at Seattle’s Winston Wachter Fine Art, reveal the rough-hewn edges of his process. Staschke (whom we featured in HF Vol. 23) creates opulent ceramic still lifes that evoke 17th-century vanitas paintings. In his previous pieces, he labored to conceal the evidence of his hand-executed process. His latest work, however, juxtaposes pristinely glazed forms with unglazed, unrefined surfaces, exposing the craft behind Staschke’s typically immaculate work. “Craft and skill have always been important in my work and by examining this further my recent sculptures have become an exercise in relinquishing control,” wrote Staschke in his artist statement. “Executing Merit” opens on March 3 and will be on view through April 15.
Jessica Hess considers herself a landscape painter, but rather than capturing vistas of waterfalls or forests, her paintings document the ephemeral graffiti she observes in Oakland, San Francisco, and in her travels (see some of her paintings here). Adding another layer to the images-within-images she has going on in her work, Hess teamed with sculptor Christa Assad to create a collaborative series of hand-painted ceramic sculptures. Assad created wheel-thrown, constructed stoneware pieces that take inspiration from Hess’s subject matter — spray cans, paint buckets, fire hydrants, pigeons, and other markers of urban detritus. Hess then hand-painted them with acrylic, filling them with images of tagged-up cityscapes. Hess has an exhibition coming up at Art Works Downtown in San Rafael, CA on March 6 and some of these collaborative ceramic pieces will be in the show.
Erika Sanada’s canine sculptures are both endearing and unnerving. There’s something sweet about her ceramic puppies (featured in Hi-Fructose Vol. 31) despite their zombie eyes and pale, hairless skin. The dogs play, wrestle, and cuddle, but the ambiguous details in each sculpture make it possible to interpret their gestures as either tender or malicious, or perhaps a bit of both. Sanada began creating these creatures as a way of coping with anxiety. She says they represent dark elements of her mind she’s had to tame. The latest installment of her ongoing, autobiographical body of work will debut in her upcoming solo show, “Odd Things: Daydreaming,” which opens November 28 at Antler Gallery in Portland and runs through December 31.
Zemer Peled’s porcelain work emerges from an inherently violence process. She smashes her handmade ceramics to pieces and uses the shards as new sculpting material. Peled constructs organic shapes out of the jagged fragments, evoking floral arrangements and at times, biomorphic, abstract masses. But despite her freeform, intuitive process, the Israeli artist creates her final sculptures with great attention to organization and detail. The shards appear nearly uniform and are carefully juxtaposed next to one another to create rhythmic shapes that emulate nature.
Russian-born artist Sergei Isupov investigates binaries in human relationships — male and female, good and evil, beautiful and grotesque. Using clay as both a material for three-dimensional expression and as a canvas for his illustrations, Isupov capitalizes on all properties of what he finds to be the most open medium. He sculpts human and animal figures, and then adds illustrations in glaze. The paintings diffuse into the clay’s surface, like tattoos on his sculptures’ skin. Taken together, the two- and three-dimensional elements of his work establish a compacted but powerful scene of emotions and narratives.