Masters in Clay

A must-see show features rare appearances by Colorado sculptors.

Also compelling are Tischler's slab-built vessels, such as his "Branch" series of constructivist bottles and vases. These attenuated vertical pieces typically have zigzagging silhouettes and are large enough to hold the branches they're intended to. Surprisingly enough, Tischler also does extremely orthodox Japanesque cups and bowls that are stylistically a world away from his sculptures and slab-built pieces.

In addition to clay stars such as Daniels, Soldner and Tischler, the show features a group of less well-established ceramicists who are also talented. The best-known of this group is Carroll Hansen, who is represented by several small sculptures finished in a flat black accented by a glossy red. These elaborate works are a technical tour de force, and it's a miracle Hansen was able to fire them without their coming apart or collapsing. The Hansens fit in perfectly with the abstract theme of most of the rest of the show.

That's also the case with the Katie Caron vertical spikes of metal and clay. Based on floral shapes, they look like freestanding plants. In the marvelous "Mullein III," Caron conjures up the ubiquitous wildflower with rusted metal leaves and yellow-green glazed ceramic petals. A young artist, unlike most of the others in this show, Caron is leaving the area this fall to attend graduate school at the renowned Cranbrook Academy in Michigan, though she intends to return to Colorado when she completes her studies.

"Red Nike III" and towers, by Martha Daniels, glazed and painted ceramics.
"Red Nike III" and towers, by Martha Daniels, glazed and painted ceramics.
Untitled abstract sculpture by Paul Soldner.
Untitled abstract sculpture by Paul Soldner.

Details

Through October 6, Sandra Phillips Gallery, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-5969, www.thesandraphillipsgallery.com .

For a slide show of the exhibit, visit www.westword.com.

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Next to the Caron sculptures are two architectonic forms, "Tikal" and "Alexandria," by Bebe Alexander, made of slab-built stoneware finished in gorgeous, high-fire reduction glazes. The obelisk shapes these pieces take relate directly to the similar forms Daniels used for her much larger towers.

Finishing out the exhibit are a trio of doll-like figures rendered in full color by Julie McNair and a site-specific miniature roller coaster in the window by Amy Chavez. The McNairs and the Chavez seem out of place in this show, not because they aren't well done — they are — but because they strike a very different mood from that of the other items. Nearly everything else is abstract and very grown-up, whereas the work of McNair and Chavez has a magic-realist quality reminiscent of children's storybook characterizations.

Sandra Phillips needs to be lauded for her ambition in presenting Masters in Clay, a major outing in terms of Colorado ceramics, even if it is fairly small and slightly schizophrenic. She also should be praised for having the good sense to bring in Sally Perisho's expertise and connections, which helped ensure that this exhibit would be worth seeing.

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