Walter McConnell's Innovative Environments Elicit Primal Emotion

Reverence hits the psyche faster and harder than the cold winter air hits the skin, when walking into Walter McConnell’s Solo Exhibition, New Theories, now on display at Cross MacKenzie Ceramic Arts in Dupont Circle.

An almost overwhelming sense of shock and surprise, contemplation and enrapture, envelop one’s thoughts standing in front of the nearly monumental installation that stands just inside the gallery doors.

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An intriguing amalgamation of porcelain and slip cast objects stack upon one another to create a temple-like structure, asserting its presence and demanding the viewer’s attention. Eerie skulls dripping with an umber cast are juxtaposed with solemn Buddhas and sensual female figurines; and expertly executed vases, cups and birdhouses stand together with characters reveling in evocative silent laughter.

It is difficult to step away and view the installation in its whole form, as the individual elements are both haunting and humorous, and call for carefully scrutinized personal attention. However, when one is able to pull away, to enjoy a prolonged gaze, the installation begins to take form as a historical timepiece, as if one had happened upon an antique bounty, eternally preserved in a holy monument.

The true treasure however, is found along the back wall of Cross MacKenzie, where two striking “wet works” compel the viewer to confront seemingly living objects.

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A professor of ceramic art at the Alfred School of Art and Design in New York, McConnell is perhaps best known for his brilliant technique of molding raw clay on-site to create delicate human bodies, that when left unfired and encased in a plastic sheath, take on a tangible life cycle.

Condensation builds within the environments, and like their human viewers, the pregnant woman and her affectionate husband grow old, their skin cracks and their features transform. Examining the miniature couple inside their fabricated world, one is compelled to experience an intimate moment with a sorrowful slant, knowing that the private paradise will come to an eventual demise.

New Theories is on display at Cross MacKenzie Ceramic Arts until February 27, 2013. An artist talk and closing reception will take place on February 27, 2013 from 6- 8pm. Cross MacKenzie is located at 2026 R Street NW, Washington DC 20009. Regular visiting hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 12- 6pm. 


Bringing the Art in DC to You,

Roxanne Goldberg