Art review: ‘Mai-Thu Perret: Migraine’ at David Kordansky Gallery


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A dozen glazed ceramics are the standouts among recent works by Swiss artist Mai-Thu Perret. At least since Kenneth Price in the 1960s, ceramics have been a sculptural metaphor for painting, with the clay body as a three-dimensional support for two-dimensional surface applications of color. Perret continues the tradition, complete with its bracing confusion between utilitarian and imaginative functions; but, in her best works it gets turned inside out.

One thick, square slab of fired clay hangs on the wall like a painting. Its witty title -- ‘The rabbit conceives and gives birth to a tiger’ -- alludes to impossibly inverted expectations. The upper two-thirds of the slab have been scrunched, pummeled and roughed up by clawing hands and fingers to create a lumpy, roiling surface, as if the object had been the focus of assault. A thick, slick, translucent and rich emerald-green glaze slides smoothly across the bottom third, while puddling in the nooks and crannies above.


Perret has improbably inverted painting’s usual format, in which the surface ‘paint’ is expressive or unruly and the support is merely a given. Here, it’s the other way around. The support records the gestures of the hand, while the glazed color, transformed in the kiln’s blistering fire, is manufactured.

Other ceramics are also bracing, including a hive-shaped mound whose surface is covered with generative (but frequently cracked) eggs; a large picnic table (partly made with concrete) whose planks glazed in salmon and celadon hues inject impossible delicacy into a rustic object; and, a sort of brain-shaped mound of purplish-pink clay slightly squashed on the wall, as if in effigy of banging one’s head.

Perret also shows a trio of large paintings whose Rorschach blots pressed onto commercial carpeting are rather too direct a fusion of trademark elements by Andy Warhol and Rudolf Stingel. Titled ‘Migraine,’ they do identify sources for the perceptual disorientation she’s after. But it’s Perret’s marvelously warped ceramics that really deliver.

David Kordansky Gallery, 3143 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, (310) 558-3030, through May 7. Closed Sunday and Monday. ALSO:

Art review: ‘David Smith: Cubes & Anarchy’ at LACMA

Art review: ‘Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster, 1964-1966’ at LACMA


Art review: ‘William Leavitt: Theater Objects’ at MOCA

-- Christopher Knight