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"Benjamin Lambert: Fish-Birds and a Snail"
2009-01-02 until 2009-01-31
Daniel Kany Gallery
Portland, OR, USA United States of America

For his first solo exhibition at Daniel Kany Gallery, Portland-based ceramic artist Benjamin Lambert presents over 20 new works based on sea life and its interaction with the culture of human technology. The works include freestanding and wall sculptures as well as thematically cutting cups and mugs. Lambert describes his figures as ďcharacters.Ē Much of this quality comes from their seeming proximity to cutting edge animation and adult-oriented cartoons such as those by Matt Groening or Nick Park. While Lambertís project relies on the notion of legibility and makes use of projecting anthropomorphized personality traits, the artistís most important forms and inclinations are absolutely based in sculptural concerns. Lambert starts all of his pieces by throwing them on the wheel. The next steps are largely lead by sculptural and structural decisions rather than the illustration of a pre-set idea.

Lambert describes this body of work: ďAll of the works in the show are glazed ceramic. There is a huge range in method: high and low fire, oxidation, reduction, wood, gas, and electric kiln firing. The pieces come together through content: they are all animals featuring gear or teeth. My initial impulse was a concern for how nature was being affected by human technology and industry. The sculptural intervention on my animals is sometimes technological, sometimes anthropomorphic. However they are mutated, they become characters: They have personality. They have wit. They arenít pathetic victims: they have agency and strength, even if it is sometimes monstrous or uncanny.Ē

Unlike the treatment for a cartoon character, in Lambertís work we are seeing a moment of evolutionary nature and its dynamism: nature in flux. Lambertís original reason for taking on this direction in his work is absolutely based in environmental and ecological concerns, yet his production is surprisingly even-handed. Some of the mutations are clearly dead-ends, while others brand the animals with a proximity to humanity Ė a process almost inevitably read as a step up the evolutionary ladder.

Its radical ambivalence is where Lambertís work finds its intellectual purchase: Is it a machine or an animal? Is it art or craft? Is it a monster or a new species? Is it even alive? Lambertís sculpture delivers a playful wit that refuses to make a heavy-handed point or be pinned down. Surely, the work begs many questions and refuses to cede many, if any, points or positions. Yet, after what can be a very challenging attempt to grasp them fully, the viewer usually settles back to seeing the pieces much as s/he did at first encounter: as playful and hilarious sculpture.

Benjamin Lambert grew up in Greene, Maine and graduated with a BFA in Ceramics from USM. He has worked at the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts. He has exhibited at the USM Art Gallery, Sanctuary Gallery, the Glickman Library, and Daniel Kany Gallery.

IMAGE
Benjamin Lambert
Walking on Egg Shells,
glazed ceramic,
14"h,
$500


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