The best show Blue Star has mounted since Lonely Are the Brave is closing this Saturday, and it’s well worth checking out on your way to Second Saturday down the street on S Flores. Familiar Unknown: Contemporary Ceramics takes advantage of Blue Star’s large main exhibition spaces to highlight four women working at the forefront of clay art. It’s another example of ceramics becoming an increasingly visible medium in the San Antonio contemporary gallery scene, something I hope to cover more soon. Curated by Ovidio Giberga, an accomplished ceramic artist in his own right, and director of UTSA’s ceramics program, the show is full of strong work, installed impeccably.
Anne Drew Potter‘s disfigured characters laugh and scowl devilishly in installations that are both spare and overflowing with heavily wrought emotion. Three bulbous women direct their menacing gazes at a frail, limp rabbit doll in “The Judgment of Br’er Rabbit.” A large yellow baby glazed in dense, bright yellow (which I’m told is a reference to Chinese glazes) delights in the misfortune of a large cloth baby who has tumped over. Across the gallery, another pair vaguely mirror these poses: a young, naked girl ecstatic lifts her arms above her as she stands over a young, naked boy fallen back on his elbows, gazing up.
In the middle of the triangle formed by Potter’s works, an installation by Rebbeca Hutchinson strikes a counterpoint of humble, organic engineering. Apparently built from materials collected on-site, Hutchinson’s spindly sticks with nest-like forms built of paper and clay are scattered sparsely through the space. I feel like I could do a better job describing them if I only knew Japanese, but there’s definitely a healthy dose of wabi in this installation. From the literature, it sounds as if these pieces are destroyed after the exhibit, so I’ll say it again: see this show before it disappears.
The last installation in the main gallery draws another contrast, with Susan Beiner‘s baroque composition of imaginary flowers and and man-made detritus (both exquisitely rendered in porcelain), the only piece that actually hangs on the wall. At first this assemblage appears to consist entirely of flowers and other organic forms, but a close look reveals bolts, pieces of furniture or anonymous industrial objects strewn throughout. Nearby, the flowers growing from the gallery floor make porcelain, foam, and polyfil seem like a most natural combination of materials.
Finally, in an adjacent space Blue Star calls the middle gallery, Rebekah Bogard has installed a fantasy world that takes some cues from CGI children’s movies, but sexualizes the characters just a touch. Bright colors and incredibly smooth glazes produce an exhibit that hardly seems ceramic at all. In the artist’s statement, and some other reviews of her work, references to a darkness lurking beneath the candy surface are ubiquitous, but as much as I tried I can’t see it in this installation. It seems very sweet and fluffy to me. Either the artist has moved away from the dark side to some degree, or I’m being naive; judge for yourself.