Variety, function and experimentation at The Clay Studio

Arts / Article

At Old City’s Clay Studio, the gallery is brimming with diverse and unique creations from dozens of artists. This Knight Arts grantee is in the midst of three different but equally abundant shows in their exhibition spaces: “Small Favors VIII,” solo work by Mallory Wetherell, and “Plates & Platters: Salon Style.” All of the exhibits cover the walls with a noteworthy variety of ceramics that are occasionally functional, but more often conceptual and aesthetic experiments as heady as any other sculptural medium could muster.

Kevin Snipes, “Black Gut Box.”

The “Small Favors” invitational and juried show was originally conceived in 2006 as a way to offer accessible, affordable and quality works to a wide audience. Artists are challenged to create tiny, sculptural forms that fit into Plexiglas, wall-mounted cubes. These criteria force tight size constraints on the creative process, and afford the opportunity for these makers to step out of the box, and interestingly, into a clear, plastic one.

Bill Vivona, "Diner."

Bill Vivona, “Diner.”

As a result, an eye-level assembly of wildly disparate styles and similar dimensions surrounds anyone who steps into the space. Forms include functional cups, miniature chairs, organic shapes and anatomical parts, just to name a few. Bill Vivona includes an extremely small diner complete with its own shrubs placed in front of its trailer-like facade, while Mariane Tebbens places an assembly of gray brains within and on top of her cube.

Derek Reeverts, "Driving Home the Point."

Derek Reeverts, “Driving Home the Point.”

Derek Reeverts displays one of the most intelligently planned uses of the miniscule area, placing a realistic figure on a hardwood floor, working diligently to hammer nails into the acrylic walls. Entitled “Driving Home the Point,” Reeverts includes details down to tiny cracks spreading out from the impact of the nails. Elsewhere, artists explore a more abstract approach, such as with Yihwen Kuo’s “Love.” Here, a rounded, ancient-looking form notched by a square window-like opening rests scratched and weathered with the amorous title in red scrawled graffiti across its surface. Kevin Snipes takes a rather painterly approach to his “Black Gut Box” which depicts a nude cartoon woman, numbers, accents and a speech bubble asking only “Oh?” This piece speaks through words, as well as through its smooth, round-edged box form and complementary blue-and-bright-orange color scheme.

Yihwen Kuo, "Love."

Yihwen Kuo, “Love.”

Elsewhere, Mallory Wetherell provides an approach to porcelain that is quite organic – emphasis on the organ. She shapes beautifully realistic, yet monochromatic renditions of internal body parts such as the heart, gray brain matter, or jaws and teeth. These potentially grotesque visions are mounted onto frames that blossom with black-and-white flower patterns, simultaneously comparing and contrasting these biological specimens. Arteries and organs, Wetherell seems to say, can easily be as visually bountiful as floral bouquets.

Mallory Wetherell, "Bloom." Photo via the artist&squot;s website

Mallory Wetherell, “Bloom.” Photo via the artist’s website

In the front of the Clay Studio, a salon-style spread of dining ware – plates, bowls and trays – offers a more traditional take on ceramics while still allowing for a broad selection of individual designs and interpretations.

"Plates & Platters: Salon Style."

“Plates & Platters: Salon Style.”

Needless to say, the Clay Studio has more to see right now than any summary could do justice. All three exhibitions will be on display through June 2.

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