Call It The Jimmy Hoffa Approach To Art

Thomas Edwards made some beautiful pottery mugs but wanted to be really sure you won’t use them.

So he sliced them up and then embedded them in concrete. Call it the Jimmy Hoffa approach to art.

Edwards won a prize for his sublime creation.

Edwards’ work is part of Box Pot: The Contained Container, Creative Arts Workshop‘s (CAW) annual national juried exhibition that this year features contemporary and conceptual ceramic works.

The idea came from the show’s judge, Garth Clark, who sent out the call for artists to “reverse the role and contain the container.” That is, the only rule is that the pot itself must be ceramic and you could box it any way you want.

Sounds like a potentially limited idea. Yet taking an item that for thousands of years has been the container and now telling it to be contained strikes me as inventive.

The little show of 13 artists’  works emerged from about three times that number who submitted slides of their work and statements. It raises interesting questions, not the least of which is: When you frame craft objects, does that make you consider them as “art”? And what about when the frame and the tension it creates are as fascinating as the work contained?

Even more fundamentally, why are we drawn to containers? What aspects of the human need for control, order, or creating a shelter might containers be answering to?

Clark selected works that of course raise the questions and only hint at answers. The main prize winners were Edwards’s work and Del Harrow’s “Air_Breath”  (pictured above), whose pots seem like a family of marching ducklings that suddenly found themselves shelved. Closer examination—and his statement—indicate that he altered the series of shapes entirely through a computer-assisted mechanical process.

Their works comprise a small roomful of hat boxes, reliquary boxes, framed and open boxes like shelves, and boxes containing ceramics that look as if they were just delivered from Ikea or, in the case of Alexander Kozachek’s work, from the Song Dynasty-era in China, where these in fact were designed and created.

Among my favorites are how Betsy Williams took the “universal language” you might find on the air conditioner tabs in your car and put them on dainty cups you might drink from. The result (pictured) suggests how matter undergoes its transformation of forms from gas to solid and to suggested liquid.

While many curators rightly minimize labels to encourage viewers to concentrate their looking at the objects themselves, Box Pot, which has no wall labels, provides additional rewards if you stroll with the gallery with the sheet of artists’ statements in your hand.

“By denying the utility of the pots that are encased, and revealing the cross section I am memorializing the communal activities of eating and drinking,” wrote Edwards in his.

The exhibition, while modest in size, is a “gem,” according to CAW’s Executive Director Susan Smith.
Click here for a more detailed description of the show and the full roster of the artists.

It’s on view through June 6 in the main downstairs gallery.

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