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A ceramic revolution

Seven contemporary artists are rediscovering ceramic, questioning the medium's function, materiality and longevity in their own work.

The exhibit, "SEVEN (re)Thinking Ceramics," will be displayed through March 3 at the Schneider Museum of Art on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

Participating artists are Hoon Lee, Tsehai Johnson, Brendan Tang, Julie York, Matthew Scheatzel, Jae Won Lee and Justin Novak.

Hoon Lee, an associate professor of art and design at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, will travel to Ashland for his performance installation, "Washed." With the help of SOU students, Lee will fashion 800 to 1,000 unfired, slip-cast wares, stack them, add water and wash his exhibit away at the opening reception. The reception will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, at the museum.

Johnson, an assistant professor of art and ceramics at the Metropolitan State College of Denver, arranged decorative porcelain forms over the walls of the museum's Heiter Gallery. The exhibit "To Dust She Returns" recalls an elegant, baroque interior and is only one part of a larger series of installations by Johnson. A performer in a 1940s-style dress will interact with the piece during the opening reception.

Tang calls himself an art nomad with a Canadian passport. The artist, currently based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, but recently returned from a residency in the Netherlands, will display three pieces from his "Manga Ormolu" series. Tang explains that "manga" is the Japanese word for "comics," and "ormolu" is an "18th-century European, decorative, gilded art object."

"I wanted to reflect on how identity and culture is a malleable thing in this day and age," he says.

For the exhibit, Tang creates Ming Dynasty-style vessels, which he adorns with robotic or futuristic objects. He folds and wrinkles the clay before firing it. Then he paints his design as if it too is folding.

"It's an illusionary game as I try to figure out how would this pattern look if it folded in on itself," he says.

"In a nod to surrealists, I'm taking objects and making them more like our skin and flesh that can be squeezed, pinched and pulled."

Also from British Columbia, York, who teaches at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, will display two pieces from her "Still-Life Series — Reflectionnoitcelfer." In her exhibit, stationary objects are reflected in mirrored panels, illustrating the shift from three-dimensional space to a two-dimensional image that changes as the viewer moves.

Scheatzel, who teaches at San Francisco University High School, will show large-scale ceramic pieces with a minimalist approach and an industrial quality.

Jae Won Lee, an associate professor at Michigan State University, makes sealed porcelain boxes with delicate patterns and miniature sculptures grouped into larger units to form a meditative exhibit.

Novak also is from British Columbia. Stenciled imagery on the gallery walls creates an environment for Novak's oversize bunny figurines in "Twenty-First Century Bunny." In Novak's words, his paranoid bunnies are "a response to living in a condition of high alert, in a world increasingly mediated by a state of security apparatus."

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 541-552-6245 or see www.sou.edu/sma.

Elements of science fiction interact with classical Ming Dynasty forms in Brennan Tang's exhibit, 'Manga Ormolu.' 'Manga Ormolu Ver. 5.0-a' is shown above.