MIAMI BEACH — The idea that ceramics are making a comeback in the art world and the art market is not exactly news. Regular visitors to Chelsea and other blue chip gallery districts and members of the global art fair jet set have seen clay and porcelain steadily gaining ground on paint, ink, and more conventional sculptural materials like bronze. And this year, ceramic art has made major inroads at NADA’s Miami Beach fair, a quintessential bastion of painting. (Textiles, too, are on the rise, both at NADA and Art Basel Miami Beach.) Ranging in style from finish fetish works in the lineage of Ken Price and Ron Nagle, to playful figurative statues and imaginative riffs on traditional ceramic objects like vases, this year’s NADA fair feels like a potter’s paradise.
My personal favorites, presiding over the booth of New York’s Rachel Uffner Gallery, are Sally Saul’s sculptures of two female figures, a dog, a fox, and a flower. The curious grouping is a testament to her endearing and playful iconography, and revived my desire for a big solo show of Saul’s sculptures — word is that Uffner has one in the works.
The fair features works by several artists working in the same vein as Saul — that is, making figurative ceramic work that plays with scale and tone, or that uses the handcrafted medium to imbue typically inanimate objects with inner life. Two shining examples of this approach are the playful food sculptures by Valerie Hegarty that are on view in Miami gallery Locust Projects‘ booth, and the cryptic, almost grotesque head sculptures by Jennie Jieun Lee that New York’s Martos Gallery is showing.
Several ceramicists featured at NADA Miami Beach took a more deconstructive approach to figurative shapes and images. Bruce M. Sherman‘s two works in New York gallery Nicelle Beauchene‘s booth feature human forms that have been fragmented into disjointed planes in a quasi-Cubist manner (“Woman with Fish,” 2016) or radically reduced to stubby limbs and little else (“Equi Lib Reeum,” 2016). Puerto Rican artist Cristina Tufiño takes a different approach in her ceramic works in the booth of San Juan’s Galería Agustina Ferreyra. The works mimic the forms of conventional vases while also evoking certain body parts — the face, the torso, the hips — streamlined to a few telltale features. Nearby, the mezzanine booth of Brussels gallery Sorry We’re Closed features a set of tabletop works and one tower of ceramic heads by Eric Croes. The pieces’ cartoon-like forms and vibrant glazes are delightful.
Amid the riffs on conventional ceramic vessels, the standouts are the dozens by Los Angeles-based painter Roger Herman filling the walls and shelves in the booth of Paris gallery Lefebvre & Fils. Ranging from pitchers and vases to bowls and plates, many feature figurative images, from deathly skulls to grimacing figures. Around the corner, in the small booth of New York gallery Situations, three large vases by outsider artist Jerry the Marble Faun seem to burst with exotic flaura and fauna.
Finally, for those who prefer their ceramics more firmly in the lineage of minimalism and geometric abstraction, two standouts are Zachary Leener‘s psychedelic work in the booth of Los Angeles gallery Tif Sigfrids — which evokes a cactus or perhaps a key to an alternate reality — and Peter Shire‘s small work in the Derek Eller Gallery booth — which could almost be a maquette for the next starchitect-designed Miami Beach resort. Seen in the context of NADA Miami Beach’s longtime home, the charmingly old-school Deauville Beach Resort, these two works in particular stand out as alluring visions from a ceramic-filled future.
NADA Miami Beach 2016 continues at the Deauville Beach Resort (6701 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida) through December 4.