Connoisseurs of ceramics who missed the just-closed...

Connoisseurs of ceramics who missed the just-closed exhibition of works in clay by California and Japanese artists at the San Diego State University Art Gallery still have two opportunities to see recent works in the medium.

"Contemporary Ceramics (Faculty Plus)" at Grossmont College Gallery (8800 Grossmont College Dr., El Cajon) features works by college faculty members Sandra Berlin, Kathy Gruzdas, Yoonchung Kim and Les Lawrence and eight guest artists, including Ken Horvath, firing technician at the college.

As might have been expected in such an affair, some of the guests outshine their hosts. On the other hand, the college can truly be proud of its staff.

Les Lawrence, who organized the show to coincide with the ceramic "Pacific Connections" show at SDSU and the opening of East County's new Reflections Gallery, is outstanding in combining strong forms in stoneware (boat shapes) with delicate colors and crusty surfaces. The enigmatic titles of his four pieces, such as "Fern's Bra Has Tassels--Her Second Guess Was Also Wrong," are teases that bring a smile.

Horvath, using traditional utilitarian forms, makes very beautiful small, simple abstract earthenware sculptures, colored dramatically red and black. Sandra Berlin, in contrast, makes complexly patterned and delicately colored (with airbrush), large, decorative wall plaques. Kathy Gruzdas' tripodal earthenware forms decorated with seaweed patterns imprinted during the firing process harken back to Oriental antiquity. Yoonchung Kim's vertical earthenware fragments, simulating walls, in various contours and many colors, are initially engaging but not attention-holding.

Los Angeles ceramists Peter Shire, with his eccentric, post-modern architectural teapots (they do, indeed, have spouts and lids), and Gifford Myers, with his characteristic, compulsively detailed, Southern California architectural miniatures, are already well-known and respected in this area. Conway Pierson, with his gloriously vulgar, Oriental-influenced pots, should be. At an opposite extreme are the elegant, sandblasted plates of John Hopkins and the very traditional, salt-glazed "jars" of New Jersey-based artist Byron Temple. Joanne Hayakawa's parodies of utilitarian and decorative objects and their chance arrangements are playfully engaging but pointless as art.

The Grossmont College Gallery in years past had a distinguished exhibition history and produced admirable catalogues and posters. It was possible to see shows there of esteemed California artists (for example, Tom Holland from the north and Jean St. Pierre from the south) who are ignored by the area's museums. After a period of inactivity due to budget cuts, it is good to see Grossmont College again offering exhibits of artists whose works are still generally not seen elsewhere.

The exhibit continues through March 14.

Reflections Gallery is a new space in town. Well, not really in town, but nearby in La Mesa at 8371 La Mesa Blvd.

Director Wita (pronounced Veeta) Gardiner's policy is "to exhibit both local and nationally known artists in ceramics, glass, jewelry and fibers."

"I plan on mounting six shows a year of eight weeks' duration, with work which will largely be created for the gallery's shows. I also plan to schedule special talks and films on various aspects of ceramics, jewelry, glass and wearable art."

Her first show, "Reflections: The Inner Image," is a very ambitious and comprehensive exhibit by four-dozen artists. The modest space is crowded--packed with treasures like a grandmother's trunk hidden away in an attic. But the works are all contemporary. With this exhibit, Gardiner establishes a standard for Reflections Gallery already maintained by Gallery 8 in La Jolla and International Gallery downtown, which show similar categories of works.

Among the exemplary works in various media, a few stand out. Jerry Rothman, an acknowledged master of contemporary ceramics who lives in Southern California, is represented by three museum-worthy pots from his "Leda and the Swan" series, in which the form, surface, design and color all complement each other in definitive erotic-aesthetic statements.

Stan Welsh of Berkeley is represented by a "Teapot" that epitomizes San Francisco Bay area "funk," a blend of refinement and coarseness in conception, materials and execution, which, like the poetry and music to which it is closely allied as an aesthetic, eludes definition. Welsh's pot, for example, may be read as a man's face or his crotch.

Florence Cohen, in contrast, is represented by richly patterned, immaculately detailed, inventively formed ceramic pieces. Also eye-catching are the miniatures of Bay area artist Rosemary Ishii MacConnell imitating vegetable forms.

Among jewelers--who as a group are stellar figures--Joanna Rhoades, Steve Brixner, Leslie Leupp, Tamiko Kawata Ferguson, Arline Fisch and David Tisdale are truly sculptors in small formats.

Bay area artist Gloria Walsh evinces a refined Japanese influence in her two-piece silk dresses, which are moving paintings. Susan Baraz is represented by a masterpiece of fiber art--dyed and woven yarn in the form of a two-piece dress with a matching coat.

The exhibit is a propitious beginning for Reflections Gallery. It continues through April 12.

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