Current Trends in Contemporary Ceramic Art

Mark Moore Fine Art
Feb 10, 2017 7:32PM

In recent years, Ceramic Art has seen a major resurgence among curators and collectors. Three of the most acclaimed of these artists working in clay today are Jeffry Mitchell, Zemer Peled, and Meghan Smythe.

Mark Moore Fine Art is thrilled to announce the Honolulu Museum of Art‘s acquisition of Jeffry Mitchell‘s  works, “In the Garden”(2014), for it’s permanent collection. We congratulate Jeffry on this milestone!

Founded in 1927, the Honolulu Museum of Art is Hawai‘i’s largest private presenter of visual arts programs, with an internationally recognized collection of more than 50,000 works spanning 5,000 years. In addition to the visual arts, film and concert programs, lectures, art classes and workshops make the museum the state’s cultural hub.

This is but one of the recent museum acquisitions made over the last three years from MMFA by artists working in clay. In recent years, Ceramic Art has seen a major resurgence among curators and collectors. Three of the most acclaimed of these artists working in clay today are Jeffry Mitchell, Zemer Peled, and Meghan Smythe.

Image: JEFFRY MITCHELL, In the Garden, 2014; glazed earthenware; 14 x 12 x 15 inches; COLLECTION OF THE HONOLULU MUSEUM OF ART

As stated in the catalog of his recent Jeffry Mitchell Retrospective at the HENRY ART MUSEUM:

Using a variety of materials and methods, including ceramics, printmaking, and drawing, Mitchell manages to juxtapose seemingly disparate ideas into beautiful, fragile, and startling works. Using sweet, furry animals and soft, pastel colors, Mitchell transforms kitsch subject matter into a study of complex human experiences, including death, sex, religion, and loss. His work, at times appearing clumsy and hand-wrought, remains approachable and innocent, engaging viewers with his child-like curiosity and ungainly re-creations of recognized subjects. While highly sophisticated in his technique, Mitchell chooses to display vulnerability in his work, allowing both himself and his viewers to negotiate frightening realities by couching them in the comfort of the familiar and a faith in innocence. His work is suffused with a desire to welcome, accept, and even love the disconcerting and flawed aspects of ourselves and others. 

The Henry Art Museum produced a short video that features a brief interview with artist Jeffry Mitchell - one of many prominent Northwest artists represented in the Henry Art Gallery's permanent collection. You can view this short film here.

Image: JEFFRY MITCHELL, Poseidon, 2014; glazed earthenware; 17 x 15 x 12 inches; $4,000      

Jeffry Mitchell was born in 1958, the fourth of nine children of working-class parents. After experiencing a largely itinerant childhood owing to his father’s career, Mitchell continued this nomadic lifestyle in his young adulthood. Although his family eventually established a somewhat permanent residency in Seattle, he decided to attend the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, and spent a semester in Rome, an experience that had a profound effect on his work. After graduating with a BA in painting, Mitchell moved to Japan to teach English and landed an apprenticeship with a production potter in Seto (known as one of the “Six Old Kilns” in traditional Japanese pottery). Impressed and changed by his experiences abroad, Mitchell returned to Seattle in 1984 and enrolled in a printmaking class at the Cornish College of the Arts. This spurred his decision to pursue an MFA in printmaking at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia. During his studies he returned to Rome, setting up a studio in the basement classrooms at Villa Caproni. Notable solo exhibitions of Mitchell’s work include: Like a Valentine: The Art of Jeffry Mitchell, 2012-2013, Henry Art Gallery; Some Things and Their Shadows, 2009, Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA; Shiny Happy Pretty (with Tina Hoggatt), 2008, Missoula Art Museum; Hanabuki, 2001, Henry Art Gallery; My Spirit, 1992, New Museum of Contemporary Art, NY; and Documents Northwest: The Poncho Series, 1990, Seattle Art Museum.

Image: ZEMER PELED, New Year's Best Dream, 2015; porcelain shards, fired clay, mixed media, wooden pedestal; H71 X W55 X L58 inches - Price Upon Request

In addition, more congratulations go out to another extremely talented sculptor at Mark Moore Fine Art, Zemer Peled who was recently featured in a group exhibition at the prestigious Nelson Atkins-Museum of Art (Kansas City, MO), titled "Unconventional Clay: Engaged in Change".  Pictured above is “New Years Best Dream,” a new monumental work Peled made for the exhibition.

Peled is the subject of a new time film produced in concert with the current major museum exhibition featuring her work. The short video is a unique, behind-the-scenes look at her intensive sculpture making technique. Click here to go to YouTube to watch this amazing short on the making of the work above.

Zemer Peled's work examines the beauty and brutality of the natural world. Her sculptural language is formed by her surrounding landscapes and nature, and engages with themes of memories, identity, and place. Her sculptures and installations consist of thousands of hand-crafted porcelain shards; a technique that yields a texture both delicate and severe. In some works, large scale-like ceramic pieces appear airy, delicate, and fluffy, as if one's breath might break it. In others, Peled's fragments are geometric barbs that mysteriously take on an alluring form - offering a sense of softness despite a sharp actuality. 

Image: ZEMER PELED, Never Look Back, 2016; porcelain shards, ceramic, wooden base; 58 x 30 x 30 ins; $55,000

Zemer Peled (b. 1983) was born and raised in a Kibbutz in the northern part of Israel. After completing her BFA from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design (Jerusalem), she earned her MA at the Royal College of Art (UK). In recent years, her work has been exhibited internationally, including such venues as Sotheby's and Saatchi Gallery (London), Eretz Israel Museum (Tel Aviv), and the Orangerie du Senate (Paris), among others. The artist currently lives and works at the Archie Bray Foundation Residency (Helena, MT).

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the work of L.A.-based artist, Meghan Smythe. As art critic Leah Ollman stated in her review of her first exhibition here at the gallery in the Los Angeles Times, "Limbs are entwined, tongues extended. Clay is rarely, if ever, this carnal. Some of the skin is mannequin-smooth but veined with cracks. Some seeps a pink foam or a pale fecal flood. Erotic pleasure plays a part here, but is only one of many competing charges."

Image: MEGHAN SMYTHE, Coupling, 2015; ceramic and glaze; 15 x 10 x 9 inches - Private Collection

"Throughout this, and Smythe's other works, there is a violent fragmentation that zigzags between sexual fantasy and deathly dismemberment. With its human shipwreck of compromised flesh, "Young Unbecoming" brings to mind Gericault's "Raft of the Medusa," and exudes comparable, palpable urgency." 

"Smythe is a sculptor of struggle. Primal forces contend in the work, as do various aesthetic and formal dispositions. The sobriety of the relic is countered by the whimsy of glass and resin follies. Figures pallid and cadaverous lie upon a surface oozing with puddles in the happy hues of Easter eggs."

"The friction between generation and decay, elegance and entropy, is what makes Smythe's work so alive and also so tough to digest. It doesn't go down easy, or at all. Stubborn, sensual, visceral -- it sticks."

Using a traditional sculptural format (the monument), Meghan Smythe captures contradicting extremes within human gesture: intimacy and brutality, beauty and ugliness, or the lewd and tender. In her attempt to achieve an “elegant vulgarity,” she encapsulates moments that define our mortality in unanticipated ways; oftentimes toeing the delicate line between erotic and macabre tendencies that give way to life, and ultimately death. Glass, ceramic, and concrete are woven together in an elaborate, orgy-like web of body parts and organic artifacts, as if suddenly cast with Pompeii-like circumstances. Like excavated antiquities or fossils, Smythe’s ceramic compositions allude to the cyclical nature of civilization – a dramedy in which all of the players are subject to conquest and demise.

Image: MEGHAN SMYHTHE, Young Unbecoming, 2015; ceramic, glaze, glass, resin, epoxy and plasticine; 36 x 53 x 74 inches - Price Upon Request

Mehgan Smythe (b. 1984, Kingston, ON) received her MFA from the Alfred University School of Art and Design (NY). Her work has been shown at the Arizona State University Art Museum (AZ) and the Gardiner Museum, Toronto (ON). She was the Visiting Artist in Residence at California State University, Long Beach (CA) from 2012-2014, where she continues to teach Ceramic Arts. The artist lives and works in Long Beach, CA. 

Additional information, current biography, reviews, press, images of past works, videos, and interviews on this incredible artist can be found on our WEBSITE HERE.

Mark Moore Fine Art