The Clay Studio sculpts and inspires with two group shows

Once again, the Clay Studio astounds with its wildly diverse fare of both functional ceramics and sculptural experiments by both resident artists and participants of the Tenth Annual Marge Brown Kalodner Graduate Student Exhibition. This Knight Arts grantee provides tantalizing aesthetics by many talented artists, ranging from the most simplistic of forms to complex figurative scenes, and even a couple of prints.

Julie Malen, “Audience of Monkeys.”

To begin with, one installation in the show emerges as a standout immediately: “Audience of Monkeys” by Julie Malen of Virginia Commonwealth University. Near the back of the space, a wooden crate rests on its side, populated by a rowdy group of ceramic primates watching a television. Although clearly a group of hairy beasts, these monkeys bear a striking resemblance to humans – even beyond their expressively detailed, boisterous faces. Most of them hold cigarettes or corncob pipes fashioned out of clay, and at least one clutches an empty glass booze bottle. Their drunken, mocking gestures are very telling of our own consumption of both media and substances, and their anthropomorphism reminds us of our primal nature. It may be ludicrous to see a monkey with a cigarette or jeering at a screen, but ultimately, how much different is it when we do it?

Joshua Paul Hebbart, "The Lines of  the Constellations/Are Imaginary."

Joshua Paul Hebbart, “The Lines of the Constellations/Are Imaginary.”

In the Graduate Student Exhibition, there are many more gems, including additional figurative works like the lengthy “Depart (24 frames per second)” by Marisa Finos. Here, a long line of intricately textured, unglazed clay faces appear to speak and move like a film reel in succession across the wall. Elsewhere, artists skew completely abstract as in the minimal, black-and-white shapes of Joshua Paul Hebbart, which complement these faces and characters with their calculated simplicity. Tristyn Bustamante of Arizona State University pieces together a bulbous concrete-looking form that seems static and weighty if not for the neon green tendrils bursting from its side. This contrast of immobile and uncontainable proves to be one of the most powerful and unique creations in the show.

Tristyn Bustamante, "Free Current."

Tristyn Bustamante, “Free Current.”

The resident artists in exhibit “Hello Goodbye” – some of whom are leaving the space – include functional works such as Rebecca Chappell’s “Centerpiece,” which exists as a beautifully structured, baby-blue, candelabra-like object and representational romps like the colorful bird in Peter Morgan’s “Tobias The Toco Toucan Ramphastos Toco,” perched atop a hill of blooming flowers.

Rebecca Chappell, "Centerpiece."

Rebecca Chappell, “Centerpiece.”

Interestingly enough, a couple of artists hang only prints in the show, a stark deviation from the clearly ceramic-heavy focus here. Brian Giniewski’s “Small Model for Huge Failure” is an image of a rocky chunk of pottery pocked with spots of volcanic glass-looking sheen and sweeping strokes of red paint. By photographing this fragment, Giniewski translates textures to 2D, defying expectations and instigating a desire for the real thing. Kelcy Chase Folsom also produces a pair of prints of a man holding a rock which magically disappears from one frame the next.

Brian Giniewski, "Small Study for Huge Failure."

Brian Giniewski, “Small Study for Huge Failure.”

As always, the Clay Studio stands as a testament to the amazing national and local work of ceramic artists who manage not only to sculpt and glaze, but to conceive, inspire and explore. “Hello Goodbye” will be on display until September 1, and the Marge Brown Kalodner show will be up only until August 25.

The Clay Studio is located at 137-139 North 2nd St., Philadelphia; [email protected]