Porcelainia: East Meets West On view through Dec. 8 at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, 1675 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-337-7970. crossmackenzie.com.
The subtitle of “Porcelainia: East Meets West” can be read several ways. Porcelain began in China, so the four Western ceramists in this Cross MacKenzie Gallery exhibition are heirs to an Asian practice. The show, curated by Leslie Ferrin, was inspired by the Sackler Gallery’s “Chinamania.” It features two large pieces by Walter McConnell, who’s also in this grouping. He and the others have all worked in China.
They’re not traditionalists. McConnell builds stupa-like structures from dozens of ceramic figures of Western pop-culture ready-mades; his largest piece arrays Elvis, E.T., Lincoln and Winnie the Pooh, all in white. Paul Scott updates actual 19th-century British tableware with contemporary rural vistas; the color scheme is the standard blue-on-white, but the scenery features intrusions such as power-generating windmills.
Steven Young Lee’s pottery is classical in form and ornament but breached by intentional holes. He puts the image of the crane, which in Asia symbolizes longevity, on a vase whose fractures suggest precariousness. Sin-ying Ho’s piece incorporates what appear to be shards of conventional blue-and-white pottery, but they’re integral parts of the bulbous, ungainly whole. Unlike the imported ceramics that sparked “Chinamania” in Victorian Britain, the work in this show is suspicious of beauty. Not so suspicious, however, as to reject entirely porcelain’s graceful form and alluring sheen.
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