The Figurative in Clay

The Figurative in Clay presents four distinct, contemporary clay artists whose work is based on the human form. From whimsical to deeply psychological, each has a story to tell. Featured artists: Gerit Grimm, Vince Palacios, Biliana Popova, Dino Sophia.

Clay has been used to study the human form for millenia. From the Venus of Willendorf to the Cycladic figurine, artists sought to fashion and understand themselves with the mud that lay beneath their feet.

The challenge to understand is of course not limited to pre-history– and if we are lucky, art can bring joy and catharsis to the windy process of self-realization. The four ceramic artists in this exhibition are defining examples, who grapple with personal and collective identity in beautiful and productive ways.

The work of Madison-based artist Gerit Grimm is spirited and sometimes even whimsical. Her models of hands throwing pots in various stages (centering, opening, pulling) are an ode to the craft that defines her, while her groupings of women and mothers capture the radiance of sisterhood.

Like the best Dada artists, LA-based Vince Palacio’s work is a combination of surrealism, collage, and existential contemplation. Visually striking in their own right, Palacio’s work summons themes from mythology, science and religion. He culls images from all around: his own children’s drawings, anatomical sketches, bone. These various indices of human-ness create a menagerie of personal and collective memories.

The Bulgarian-born Biliana Popova creates instances of warm, sometimes agonizing, emotion. Their quiet elegance verges on the sacred, and yet they are brazenly human. In Pillow, a figure clutches the eponymous cushion, her face buried in it.

Los Angeles artist Dino Sophia’s work is so personal that coming upon it feels like an intrusion. His untitled shadow boxes are surrounded by jagged shards of clay, suggesting an original purpose to conceal the content beneath. We are now party to his secrets which nevertheless remain difficult to grasp.

This exhibition was on display at the Craft in America Center February 28, 2015 – March 28, 2015.

Photos by Madison Metro