The ceramics of Don Reitz, an Arizona artist born in Pennsylvania in 1929, have a rough, lyrical expressiveness that is likely will captivate most visitors to a retrospective selection of his works at Artspace at Untitled, 1 NE 3.
Curated by Evelyn Craft, executive director of the Belger Art Center in Kansas City, Mo., the exhibition contains 71 works by Reitz, an influential ceramic artist often credited with reviving the technique of salt firing.
A series of atmospheric blue-purple, gray-white and black horizontal lines is all the decoration required for the show’s earliest work, a 1961 stoneware “Punch Set for Mom,” made up of a large bowl and twelve cups.
An exaggerated handle on the top, echoed in the base, becomes the strongest design element in a tall, dark, sculptural rather than functional, 1965 salt-glazed stoneware creation called “Through the Loops.”Almost equally expressive is the pockmarked, salt-glazed surface texture of a 1969 stoneware piece by Reitz, entitled “Vessel,” which includes blue, leaf-like decor and ornate handles.
Even more freeform and engaging are the loose, gestural, earth-toned marks found on the surface of a 1974 platter, celebrating “The Dance,” that one almost wants to pick up and throw, like a large ceramic Frisbee.
A phototransfer face with large eyes, and a small nose and mouth, seems to look out from the several joined, rough-edged, stoneware surfaces of a 1981 wall hanging, which stops us short with its title, “Pull Yourself Together.”
Powerful pictorial elements, with some of the naïve appeal of children’s drawings, embellish three large, round, low-fire earthenware platters, called “High Ride Hay Ride,” “When You Are Real” and “We Will Return For Sure.”
The same may be said of such rough-hewn, nearly square or rectangular rather than round, mid-‘80s earthenware works as “I Don’t Walk Alone,” “She, Me, and Sita,” and “Shield: I Go Without Fear.”
A fanged, feathered creature, half rooster and half monster, seems to be running around the sides of a charmingly offbeat 1984 earthenware pitcher, 16 inches tall, called “Sara’s Dream.”
Heralding the much more sculptural creations that dominate the latter decades of the show is a yellow-brown, rough-surfaced, free-standing, vessel-like work called “Yukio Yama I.”
Seemingly random, darker brown drip patterns — reminiscent of those of abstract expressionist paintings — enliven the sides of a 1993 “Large Covered Jar,” 35 inches tall, with very roughly worked handles.
An intriguing 2011 wood-fired stoneware work, 41 inches tall, called “Florida Stack,” suggests a brown high-rise tower of cutoff, truncated coffee cups, displayed on platforms, resting on a vaguely figurative-organic base.
A few inches taller are three, smoky, sentinel-like 2007 stoneware stacks called “Kachina Boy,” “Standing Watch” and “It’s My Watch” (the latter of which is embellished with a dark, seemingly sleeping face).
Even more vertical and thought-provoking is “Ice Flow,” a free-standing, wood-fired and salt-fired sculpture, 61 inches tall, done between 2003 and 2012, by Reitz. Supremely elegant and evocative, too, are two salt-glazed 2011 creations by Reitz, his “Teastack 4” and “Big Heart Shape.”
On view through June 1, along with a show of abstract metal sculptures and study drawings by Belgrade-born, Oklahoma City artist Marko Kratohvil, in two side galleries, Reitz’s retrospective exhibit is highly recommended.
Hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Call 815-9995 or visit the website at www.artspaceatuntitled.org for information.