A Walk Through Art League's Four-Part Ceramics Shows

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These aren't your grandmother's ceramics.

Art League Houston is celebrating the unconventional and unexpected in the craft with four shows this month that challenge the expectations of ceramics.

"These exhibitions feature artists who are not just creating conventional art objects using clay but creating new environments and experiences through innovative site-specific installation and performance art," says Visual Arts Director Jennie Ash.

Just take "Britain's Dinners and Texan Meals," a solo exhibition by British ceramic artist Damaris Booth in the gallery's hallway. Through 16 plates, Booth explores iconic foods of Texas and Britain by photographing her leftovers and infusing the photos onto ceramic plates. By capturing these half-eaten plates of chicken fried steak, cheese enchiladas, gumbo, fish 'n' chips, and bangers 'n' mash, Booth aims to show how food can be "rapidly transformed from being necessary and desirable to unwanted and repulsive."

Other works take over the walls, floor and everything in-between. In "Connections and Directions," a group exhibition co-curated by Ash and Rebecca Hutchinson in the main space, eight artists present mostly installation-based works that employ clay, as well as metal, plastic, cardboard, textile and wood in unexpected ways. In "Other Moments of an Interior," Lauren Mayer's installation features folded clothing made of porcelain hangs along the wall. In the suspenseful "have your cake n eat it 2," Birdie Boone has manages to precariously balance handmade cups on slanting shelves. Featured artists also include Claire Hedden, Collen Toledano, Ryan Blackwell, David Katz and Matt Ziemke.

Arizona-based Susan Beiner takes over Art League's front gallery in "Organic Dissolution," with an installation made of nearly 1,000 white ceramic forms that rise up from the floor, like part-landfill, part-garden. And don't miss Jessica Fortier Kreutter's outdoor installation, "Flight, the day I began to disappear," comprised of three porcelain swings suspended from the sculpture garden trees that are decorated with metallic clamps.

All told, the exhibitions explore ideas as diverse as human order, domesticity, culture and memory -- all through ceramics.

"I want people to be excited about the potential of combining traditional processes with contemporary ideas," says Ash. "I hope people get a sense of how adventurous the artwork is and how full of energy these artists are: not only are they great craftsmen (and craftswomen) but they are also incredible conceptual thinkers."

These four shows are up at Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose Boulevard, until April 26. For more information, call 713-523-9530 or visit www.artleaguehouston.org.

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