Sculpture artist Michael Beitz is the kind of surrealist who exposes all the gooey ways one can subvert reality. Scale (both in size and quantity) and proportions that can be stretched and skewed regardless of utility and biology are frequent themes in the work we have to show you today.
In many cases, his pieces are not contemporary ceramic art, but there is a plasticity that brings them together regardless of medium. His tables are wood, but they are like clay in that they can be twisted and knotted. His busts are concrete, but they call to mind a kiln environment. Some are numbered, as though they’re studies before the artist attempts the final work. Another one is leaking fluid, evoking the cones ceramic artists use to gauge the heat of their fires. The piles of heads reminded me of all the lonesome rejects one may find in an abandoned porcelain factory.
Beitz achieved his BFA at Alfred University in 1999 and his MFA at the University of Buffalo in 2009. Among his credits is Banksy’s Dismaland (2015), a soul-crushing amusement park. Roll (2015) was his contribution to the project.
Dismaland gets dragged by critics, perhaps for being too jokey. I’d argue that these people hate fun. My own problem with Dismaland was that it appeared to be patchy. It would have benefitted from more editing to unify the different artists’ contributions to the whole. I suppose you could argue that the sketchy curation was part of the bit, but to me it only emphasized the gaps between the different installations.
Beitz’s piece, however, articulated the spirit of the place fantastically. His massive roll of toilet paper gave Dismaland’s visitors a place to rest, but even there there is no reprieve from the ennui. Not only does the park scorn you so much it makes you rest next to a roll of toilet paper, but the pavilion also has a view of a polluted, filthy river. It’s these two things taken together, these dual middle fingers to the guests, that perfect the dark comedy of Roll. It’s my favorite thing in this series.
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily.
Do you love or loathe these works of contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.