Continuing through February 21, 2015
For Michael Kaysen’s current exhibition, most of the walls are left empty. Gathered together on a single, horizontal shelf in the back of the space are a series of thrown ceramic bottles, each treated with a painterly application of neutral and jewel-toned glazes. Their voluminous bodies taper to thin, elongated necks bearing an opening so tiny, one could not imagine attempting to fill a vessel with anything. The artist cites acclaimed 20th century ceramicists Gertrud & Otto Natzler as an influence; in that well-worn vein, Kaysen too emphasizes form over function. But, clearly it’s not the artist’s use of modernist tropes that speaks to a contemporary audience.
Kaysen’s engagement with contemporary art is multifaceted. In addition to being the owner of a gallery in nearby Hammond, Indiana, his personal artistic output takes the form of two drastically differing genres. One prominent avenue of his practice is installation-based, with found objects piled and intertwined in a bricolage style — a method that seems very of-the-moment when compared to the age-old ceramic techniques featured here. In this exhibition, meaning resonates primarily through process within context. Kaysen doesn’t just throw on the wheel, he prompts viewers to consider what it means to take part in the rigor and craftsmanship of a tradition like this in an art world that often favors novelty over mastery.