One mid-century ceramicist, the late Maija Grotell, finds herself in conversation with another, the living Ian McDonald at Turning Still: Historical & Contemporary Ceramics. At Patrick Parrish gallery in lower Manhattan, the two ceramicists—McDonald, the current artist-in-residence and Grotell, former artist-in-residence at The Cranbrook Art Academy—dialogue through pieces that reference Cranbrook’s campus in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Grotell’s modernist vases and vessels, rendered in strong forms with geometric patterns painted in surface slip (colored clay), are in stark tension alongside McDonald’s strong, yet soft, bowls finished with colored terra sigillata (ultra-fine clay that’s sieved, applied, and then burnished for a soft look).
In Turning Still, Grotell’s work—11 pieces on loan from The Cranbrook Art Museum’s permanent collection—have rough surfaces built up with slip and glaze, creating peaks and valleys (and sometimes representative images). Compare that to McDonald’s contributions, all new for this show; the bowls and jars are simple and angular, but adorned with fully realized “pipes,” “bars,” and “rails,” turning what’s implied into actual geometry. The effect is especially pronounced as Turning Still mixes and mingles the two artists’ work to create maximum contrast. While Grotell’s vases, cups, and bowls are decorated, they still suggest functionality, an effect that McDonald’s filled-in, covered, or obscured objects eschews.