Clay @ Penn

Jeffery Warnock's "Birds"

WHAT: Clay@Penn, the 2007 Clay Invitational.

WHERE: The Charles Addams Gallery, Addams Fine Arts Hall, 200 South 36th Street (just across the street from the Penn Bookstore).

WHY GO?: Because the exhibit, which opened earlier this month, has some of the most creative, beautiful and downright head-scratching clay works you’ll find anywhere. Curated by Julie Saecker Schneider, director of undergraduate fine arts, and Sumi Maeshima, lead ceramics instructor, this unique exhibit features the work of 12 contemporary artists, all of whom offer his or her own unique take on one of the world’s oldest art-making media—clay.

ARTIST LINEUP: Eight international and national clay artists—Andy Brayman, Abby Donovan, Evan Kwong, Simon Martin, Megumi Naitoh, Kari Radasch, Kukuli Velarde and Jeffery Warnock—join Penn artists Linda Cordell, Matthew Courtney, Ryan Greenheck and Maeshima.

IMPRESSIONS: Works range from the traditional (Greenheck’s earthy pottery offers a simple, domestic beauty) to the sprawling (Kwong’s work spreads across an entire gallery wall, and what appears at first to be a mosaic of sea shells reveals itself, upon closer inspection, to be a collection of brightly colored, well, bacteria, hence the title, “Bacteria Mas”) to the bizarre (Cordell’s “Squirrel Shot” features a stark, white squirrel … being shot in the head).

FAVORITES: Greenheck’s pieces stood out for their warm, traditional craftsmanship, and Maeshima’s use of nailheads as a secondary medium was interesting, but our favorite piece was Warnock’s “Birds,” pictured above, a collection of red, yellow and orange bird sculptures that seem to “fly” from one end of the exhibit wall to the other. Warnock, a Philadelphia artist who has held a residency at the The Clay Studio, says his process involves drawing, collecting, building and photographing images to make “stories.” We could be wrong, but the story of “Birds” appears to be evolution. At one end of the piece is what appears to be a pterodactyl. At the other is a white dove. In between? Too many other birds to mention—each unique in its own way.

EXHIBIT DETAILS: Clay@Penn runs through Oct. 21 at the Addams Gallery, open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 215-573-5134 or visit www.design.upenn.edu.

Originally published on September 20, 2007