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Architectonic: Bruce Dehnert Sculptural Ceramics

February 7, 2022

Bruce Dehnert’s passion for architectural forms has long been a significant element in his work, functioning as both form and content and sometimes as a surprising nuance. Dehnert’s work in this exhibition confirms the inseparability of architectonic form and the artist’s full knowledge and experience of clay’s spatial plasticity

Dehnert has lived, worked, exhibited, curated and taught in several parts of the world. He is also a master kiln builder, responsible for the rebuilding of the noborigama kiln at Peters Valley where he heads the Ceramics Program. While the current exhibition focuses on the artist’s investigation of geometries as primary elements, his art includes figurative sculpture in which semi-abstracted bodies are supported on armatures of geometric clay units. Dehnert’s exploration of diverse forms reflects his abiding interest in narrative and myth as forces in art and life. One should not be surprised at finding these elements in his sculpture, in two-dimensional work and in his writings.

Bruce Dehnert’s breadth of expertise may be seen in the treatment of clay surfaces. Glazes are a world unto themselves, requiring deep knowledge and experience. Dehnert has produced works with masterfully detailed surfaces. Well-known is a series of fanciful large butterdishes about which, the artist writes, “I have tried to gather humor and elegance together in a curious relation-ship.” *

While it is impossible to document Dehnert’s extensive and varied creative history, “Architectonic…” seems to resonate with an investigation of primacy and purity. This is also visible in recent “ingot” forms that are potentially “functional” in the shallow concavity of their upper surfaces but stripped of any insistence that they be other than clay; they are understated sculpture. As with the sculptures in this exhibition they are replete with traces of the maker’s hand and typical of Dehnert’s willingness to create ambiguity, to seek and investigate in his art the confluence of intellect and spontaneity. ‘Architectonic…,” built of walls, corners, lines, curves, is the exploration of complexity created with deceptively simple geometric forms wedded to clay’s primal and seductive plasticity.

*See “Butterdishing the Ancestors,” (Ceramics Monthly, March 2007)

Ingrid Renard and Hildreth York, Curators

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