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''Radioactive and Bright''
at Armstrong’s Gallery, Pomona, California
Preview by Kathy Zimmerer

Luminosity is the shared characteristic in this group show, which builds on the tradition of jewel-like glazes applied to whimsical and elegant forms.

Patrick Horsley’s vivid electric blue stoneware plates are an apt introduction to “Radioactive and Bright.” His marvelous “Round T-Pot” is straight out of the Arabian Nights with it bent handle and arabesque spout. This teapot is sheathed in a shimmering turquoise blue glaze, and its verticality and linear aspect emphasizes its graceful shape. That elegance is enhanced by the vibrant colors, even the surface decorations and textures are refined and spare but the lines pop out when he uses a fluorescent orange glaze or his signature blue. This is an exhibition that places the impact of color in the foreground.

Also included in this luminous group are brilliantly hued and more subtle ceramic and mixed media works by Shane Keena, Peter Kuentzel, Dee Marcellus Cole, Keith Schneider, and collaborators Emily Rossheim and Tom Marrinson.  Together they build on the tradition of using jewel-like glazes and whimsical or elegant forms as pioneered by Ken Price, Elsa Rady and Ron Nagle.

Less charged than Horsley but still rich in imagery and color are Keena’s earthenware sea creatures. Mostly riffing on the shape and the spines of a sea urchin; he is deeply influenced by the eco-systems of the tide pool. His sculptures are uncanny evocations of the creatures’ shape and texture. Ranging from a pale pearlescent white to a lime green and tangerine glaze applied to two other sculptures, Keena manages to evoke the vibrating brilliance of an undersea reef.    

Like geometric puzzles, Kuentzel’s raku fired stoneware sculptures are an intriguing mixture of texture, color and image. In the perfectly titled ceramic piece, “Dance,” striations of color including lime green, bright orange and royal blue rhythmically caper across the surface. In his sculpture “Endurance” color and shapes jostle for position,  the vivid green and deep blue fight for predominance and are beautifully counterbalanced by the tiny squares of orange and yellow at the corners.

Glowing bowls of bright blue with orange, yellow and green interiors by Rossheim and Marrinson add more fuel to the fiery vibrancy of color. Spare and simple in form, the eye concentrates on the glorious glazes they use to create their elegant bowls. Their color palette brings the rich colors of the Southwest to mind; especially so in a series of bowls that are glazed in turquoise on the exterior and have interiors of golden yellow and deep coral. Another refined set of bowls and a plate also reflect their juicy juxtapositions of color, including a vibrant coral exterior with a deep yellow interior and royal blue with crimson.

The attenuated paper maché images of Cole are luminous and light hearted, which makes them fit smoothly into this ensemble. Her bird-like figure, “Falling Star,” dives through the sky with tiny wings and a bronzed surface. Schneider’s bizarre earthenware vessel “Just Above Water #2” is a wry masterpiece of form and function. Looking like a clown who has just missed the circus, the woebegone figure holds his head in his hands, his rubbery ears echoing his long skinny arms. His marvelous suit is full of bright pattern and his hat morphs into another equally imaginative head, or the lid of the vessel. It’s all topped off with a large red nose.

These artists use color and whimsy to reinforce their imagery and make sculptural forms dynamic. Whether fashioning a baroque teapot or a simple bowl, their use of acidic hues heightens the impact of their work and endows this show with a strong visual presence.

[home page image:  Shane Keena, \"Strongylocetrotus-yellorg,\" multi-fired earthenware, luster]

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