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The 5 Best Things About Contemporary Ceramics

In anticipation of her debut show, 'Void + Collapse,' curator Chloe Curtis gave us the dish on why she's excited about contemporary ceramics.

Behind glass doors at 55-59 Chrystie Street, obscured for the moment by thick brown paper, curator Chloe Curtis has amassed a treasure trove of contemporary ceramics that even young New Yorkers might be able to afford. She’ll make her curatorial debut with the exhibition, Void + Collapse, this Thursday, April 14. The pieces range in price from $38 to $1,800. “What I’m most interested in doing in this exhibition is breaking down that boundary between sculpture and ceramics,” Curtis says. She believes that by bringing the works into a curated gallery, as opposed to a retail store, she’ll help people reconsider ceramics and their place in the arts.  

Curtis initially studied fashion, and her mother is the designer, Jill Stuart, who’s known for her dresses and what Curtis calls a “girly” aesthetic. This background inspired Curtis to further investigate craft materials. She gravitates toward art that she describes as more “feminine” in color, pattern, and material. The ceramics of Shio Kusaka, in particular, encouraged her to delve further into the form. Yet, Curtis wanted to work with artists who weren’t as established and introduce them to new collectors. She visited studios throughout New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, searching for the right combination for this show. Finally, she settled on a diverse group that includes Jenny Blumenfield, Adam Frezza and Terri Chiao, Sean Gerstley, Isabel Halley, Romy Northover, Suzanne Sullivan, and Pilar Wiley. Each created new work for Void + Collapse.

Curtis spoke to The Creators Project about five of the most exciting aspects of contemporary ceramics:

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JENNY BLUMENFIELD, Nudes: The Four Graces, 2015. Credit: Charlie Rubin

1. Mark-making and surface detail:

Curtis relates artists’ interest in mark-making and surface detail to textile and graphic design.

2. Non-functional works:

Curtis points to a long, narrow work with a form that diverges from the traditional vessel shape. “You look at it and you don’t even think about craft,” she says. “You think about it as an art object.”

3. Scale:

Curtis discussed size with the artists. While she wanted them to work within the pre-existing practice that had initially captured her attention, she spoke to them about making new pieces that were a little bit larger. At their new size, they further blur the line between sculpture and traditional ceramics.

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SEAN GERSTLEY, White Bell Bottoms, 2016. Credit: Charlie Rubin

4. A return to the handmade: 

Curtis emphasizes how the artists’ hands, not technology, have shaped each piece in her exhibition. She says the works evidence a “return to the touch and tactility that you don’t get with a lot of other materials.”

5. New materials:

A duo in her show, Adam Frezza and Terri Chiao, use paper fiber and plaster instead of clay. They combine media that’s associated with child’s play while creating art objects. One of their works contains a fragrance, inviting the viewer to experience the piece through multiple senses—touch, sight, and smell.

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ADAM FREZZA AND TERRI CHIAO, Golden Cotyledon, 2016. Credit: Charlie Rubin

Void + Collapse is on view at 55-59 Chrystie Street until May 8. Click here for more information. 

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