Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mikhail Zakin Retrospective: Journey in Clay

The late ceramicist Mikhail Zakin is having a retrospective at her name sake gallery.  She co-founded the non-profit organization "The Art School at Old Church" in Demarest, NJ in 1974 in an abandoned Baptist Church, where the Zakin Gallery is located.  According to NJ Arts, "Zakin has taught at the Mendocino Art Center, Brooklyn Museum School, Greenwich House, and Sarah Lawrence College.  She has led seminars in China, Japan, Italy, Korea, England, Mexico, Scotland, Morocco and the Netherlands, and her work is in major collections internationally".

These works are minimal and organic and they express her interest in different textures, functional/non-functional forms, and natural color.  Apparently in the ceramics community she is known for her experimentations with salt glazing and carbonized clay.  But what I love about her sculpture aside from technique is the stripped down simple forms that do not represent nature but have a feeling of being nature.  The Executive Director at Old Church, Maria Danziger, describes her work as, "although very traditional in execution and technique, Zakin's work is radical in its scope and breadth.  Many of the works are so complete in their formal and conceptual qualities they seem to have been created effortlessly.  [...] Her work brings forth the prehistoric, the modern, and future times to come, sometimes all in one sculpture."  She goes on to say that her works are "bold and fully articulate, yet tempered with subtlety and nuance."

What I like about Mikhail's ceramics that they aren't trying to impress the viewer or awe the audience... there is a lack of self-consciousness.  These sculptures are what they are and you can tell that she was fully engaged in the process of creating them, and loved every minute of it.  I don't know much about the history of ceramics but they seem to belong not to the Modern nor Prehistoric eras... they instead seem to come from a time and place that has always existed and will continue to always exist.  I remember reading about Henry Moore one time and thought it was interesting how the author described his work as not really belonging to any particular group of artists or trend... he was kind of on his own, doing what he does... that was that.  I feel the same way about Mikhail's work.

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