A mix of orange, yellow and red liquid runs out of a good-sized pipe, pooling on the surface at its edge.
At least, that’s how “Spilled Pipe” appears.
The most impressive piece in Lauren Mabry’s Lux Center for the Arts show, “Spilled Pipe,” isn’t metal, and the flowing colors aren’t paint. They are a mix of glazes over terracotta that has been crafted to appear to be liquid.
That’s a true technical achievement and a perfect illustration of Mabry’s work that brings abstraction to ceramics via a tenuous combination of precise, technically masterful construction and glazing, and relinquishing that control.
“I grapple with abstraction,” Mabry writes in her artist’s statement. “I work from within, painting with glaze: an inherently complex, transformative material. I’m discovering the degree to which expression involves thought versus action.”
The thought is contained within her formulation of the glazes and her command of the material that allows her to paint as if she is seeing the finished surfaces. The action comes from the painting itself, where she leaves traces of her hand, and from the capricious nature of ceramics, which can come out far differently than imagined after they are fired.
“Spilled Pipe” and the five “Cylinders” that constitute all the show save one piece are dramatic, brightly colored pieces -- the cylinders having a bottom in which the colors that appear to drip down the vessels’ sides can pool or are blended.
That makes the works look like either Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler or Joan Mitchell attacked the ceramic surfaces with splatters, drips and pools of paint -- classic abstract expressionism given three-dimensional form.
The final piece in the show is an “Untitled” small wall work that could be an AE painting with three flowing, dripping passages highlighted by glitter.
Mabry, who earned her M.F.A. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2012, is a rising star in the ceramics world. Now based in Philadelphia, she’s had museum shows, received a 2014 emerging artist award from the National Council on Education for Ceramic Arts, lectured at Harvard and will be a resident artist at the Jingdezhen International Ceramic Center in China.
The seven pieces in her small Lux exhibition are evidence of why Mabry’s attained that status. And they make up a show that is one of the most striking ceramics exhibitions I’ve recently seen.