Charles Birnbaum - November 2011
November 11th - December 2nd, 2011.
Art historian and art critic Suzanne Ramljak, coined the apt title for our show, “An Orgy of Form”, in her critique of a Birnbaum exhibition when describing the work. Orgy: “occasions of unrestrained indulgence designed to satisfy extravagant cravings”. This official meaning of the word, well defines Birnbaum’s extravagant sculptures made up of undulating and intertwined shapes full of erotic overtones. The patterned elements are stacked and layered, with protruding tapered appendages and sensuous tendrils reaching dangerously away from the safety of the massed center. Any scuba diver will feel in his element with these coral like colonies and sea anemone-like fingers teeming and writhing in the atmosphere.
Charles Birnbaum, once a student of Ken Ferguson the famous ceramic sculptor in Kansas City, uses paper in his clay to give the porcelain more tensile strength and flexibility to hold up to the delicate and taxing methods employed by the artist. He presses the clay into surface textures - then folds, bends, pulls and miraculously twists the elements into an adventure in expressive form that even those studied in the techniques of ceramics are unable to understand or replicate. With no reflective clear glaze, the white porcelain absorbs the light and has a bone-like quality to it, underscoring its relationship to the natural world. The final result is a body of work that reflects a beautiful struggle of abandon and control – the “unrestrained indulgence” versus the challenging technical discipline of working with, and taming this material. This extravagant aesthetic brings us back to the divine excesses of the Baroque period – a perfect artistic counterpoint to all the understated contemporary minimalism of the new neo-modernism movement. The viewer is refreshed, delighted and abundantly satisfied.