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Charles Birnbaum’s Freehand, Otherworldly Ceramic Sculptures

Charles Birnbaum, a New York City-based artist, creates abstract ceramic pieces that seem both alien and influenced from the stranger part of nature. Whether it’s his wall sculptures or free-standing “vessels,” each pushes the form far beyond its classical uses. His work is held in collections and exhibited across the world.

Charles Birnbaum, a New York City-based artist, creates abstract ceramic pieces that seem both alien and influenced from the stranger part of nature. Whether it’s his wall sculptures or free-standing “vessels,” each pushes the form far beyond its classical uses. His work is held in collections and exhibited across the world.

“My work always begins with a form that expresses a particular feeling or idea I have about ‘containment,’” the artist says. “The intersection of containment and freedom is a critical challenge for me because I create each piece freehand (without the use of a throwing wheel or mold). Unconsciously, I create what William de Kooning called ‘slippery glimpses’—‘elusive bits of meaning that a work of art can yield if only for an instant before drawing us back into the realm of pure visual sensation.’ It is these glimpses that reveal the tension between my desire for freedom and my need for control, my yearning for intimacy and my fear of engulfment.”



Birnbaum is a graduate of Kansas City Art Institute, “as one of a select group of Ken Ferguson’s ‘ceramic stars’—artists who questioned the cultural premises and constraints of ‘craft’ by producing postmodern interpretations of ancient Asian forms.” He then went on to Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, where he continued his evolution as a sculptor.

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