NORMAN — A show of ceramics by Navajo artist Christine Nofchissey McHorse at the University of Oklahoma plays with our idea of what is organic and the interplay of abstract and figurative, functional and nonfunctional.
Called “Dark Light,” due to the nearly black, slightly sparkling, micaceous, mica-rich clay used by the Santa Fe, N.M., artist, who was born in 1948, the exhibit is at OU's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, 555 Elm Ave.
Simplicity itself, and dating from before the beginning of the “Dark Light” series in 1997, is a smooth, organic “Wedding Pot,” done in 1986, with two identical spouts, linked by a single handle, that creates an oval negative space.
Zigzags that may suggest either lightning or the different levels of a pueblo, adorn the sides of a 1990 “Stepped Water Vessel,” nearly the same tan-brown color as the wedding pot, and “decorated,” unlike the rest of the show.
Rounded forms, like dark, waterworn rocks that have adhered to each other through time, create an almost classical music-like “Spatial Concerto,” in a three-part 2012 work, displayed on separate pedestals, in a case.
A neck of clay bends back to an extreme degree, and becomes a handle of sorts, for a double, bulbous, vessel-like 2006 sculpture, which McHorse names after the “Black Swan” it looks a little bit like, grooming itself.
Somewhat similar is the handle-like protuberance which seems to turn back on itself, entering an aperture in a dark 2010 vessel, which she calls “Inversion.”
A multifaceted, screw-like “Spiral” opening at the top adds greatly to the visual interest of McHorse's handsome, sculpturally powerful 2005 black pot of that title.
A curled spiral creates a kind of “head” on the top of an ornate, double-walled, vessel-within-a-vessel shape that evokes some of the baffling complexity and richness of modern life in her “Spontaneous Combustion” of 2011.
Somewhat analogous is the impact of “Multiplicity,” a 2010 pot in which round, roughly textured shapes appear to sprout from the top part of a deliberately irregular vessel.
Organized by the Ceramic Arts Foundation in New York, and curated by Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio, the show also contains a group of McHorse's black-and-white sketches and designs for ceramic creations.
The one-woman exhibit, her first traveling show, is highly recommended, during its run through Jan. 12, 2014, in a first-floor gallery space at the OU museum.
— John Brandenburg