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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dinner re)Works Serves Up a Colorful Medley of Handcrafted Ceramics


Ceramics by Steven Cheek. Photo by Mo McKnight Howe.

A Louisville Visual Art Association Exhibit at The University of Louisville’s Cressman Art Center

Reviewed by Emily Pike


Entire contents are copyright ©2012, Emily Pike.  All Rights reserved.


Dinner(re)Works, presented by the Louisville Visual Arts Association in partnership with the University of Louisville Hite Art Institute, is a five-week exhibition and fundraising sale of beautifully handcrafted ceramic dinnerware. Praised as “one of the nation’s top ceramic shows of the year,” this year’s presentation features work by 16 acclaimed ceramics artists from throughout North America, three of whom are Kentuckians, and includes a visually delicious 2D companion exhibit of oversized photographic works by Julius Friedman, offering a stunning backdrop to the featured ceramics. (There are also educational workshops, lectures and fundraising events associated with the exhibit. More information on these is available at www.louisvillevisualart.org.)

Dinner(re)Works at The Cressman Center.
Photo by Rick Sneed.
The Dinner Works series was a major LVAA fundraiser for over two decades before a brief hiatus beginning in 2010. For this year’s return of the event, curator Fong Choo has redefined the exhibit, changing the name to Dinner (re)Works and stepping back from the elaborate whole-table designs of years past to focus more clearly and simply on the art.

In most museums or exhibits, presentation of the artwork is so understated as to go nearly unnoticed. By contrast, the carefully executed gallery design of Dinner (re)Works instantly sets a delightfully crisp and contemporary tone, contributing substantially to the overall success of the show. Not an inch of the space is either underused or overcrowded; the creative arrangement of pieces fills the room with interest and allows for organic flow around the viewing area. Round display platforms have been suspended from the ceiling, hovering above the floor at various heights; and while each is still recognizable as a table set for dinner, this unexpected alternative to actual dining furniture creatively highlights each artist’s work, chicly elevating the pieces from samples of dishware to individual mini-collections of artwork. The differing heights and color patterns of the platforms, together with Friedman’s exquisitely vivid photographic prints arranged along the perimeter, create a vibrant space full of visual and textural treats. Much credit is due to Choo and project manager, Sarah Stalker, for bringing the exhibit so brilliantly to life.

Detail of Fong Choo PLates. Photo bu Mo McKnight Howe.
The work itself is a richly diverse assortment of shapes, colors, patterns and glazes. Each artist’s display platform contains four place settings of matching dishware, with additional platters, teapots and other containers dotting shelves along the walls or in corners.

Kentucky artist Steven Cheek displayed several pieces of particular interest. His hand-carved porcelain dinner place settings were engraved with dozens of leaves and coated in a glossy, soft green glaze. Two nearby containers were of the same gentle color but had a matte finish and were carved very differently – one with overlapping skulls, and the other with an assortment of toxic chemicals' molecular names. The two pieces were so similar in style, yet the choice of engravings distinguished them completely from one another. I would have loved to talk with the artist to learn more about what inspires his design choices.

Fong Choo Dinnerware. Photo by Mo McKnight Howe.
Curator Choo is another local artist with work in the show. His dinnerware pieces are sleek and colorful but not quite as masterfully crafted as his signature teapots, several of which are also featured. Choo has said of clay that "one must push the limits, test waters, search, prod and explore its many boundaries." The unique beauty of each of his teapots is testament to this attitude.

All work in the show is available for purchase, with proceeds going to benefit the Louisville Visual Arts Association, which identifies itself as “a catalyst for education and participation in the visual arts.” The association strives to support local artists through exhibition opportunities and artist advocacy services, such as micro-loan programs and marketing support; and it hosts extracurricular Children’s Fine Art Classes in an attempt to counterbalance cuts in public school arts education. It also sponsors Open Doors, a program that pairs local professional artists with at-risk communities, giving these underserved populations the opportunity to learn about art and collaborate in creating works of self-expression.

The final Dinner(re)Works event will take place June 29, 6-9 p.m. at The Cressman Center. Reservations are available by calling 502-896-2146 or by visiting www.louisvillevisualart.org.

Dinner(re)Works
Through July 7
Wednesday – Friday, 11-6 p.m.
Saturday, 11-3 p.m.
Cressman Center Gallery
100 East Main Street
Phone: 502.852.0288


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