In recent years, Mai-Thu Perret's work has addressed relationships between pure formalism, applied craft, and spiritual discourse, revealing points where seemingly contradictory approaches to object- or image-making overlap. The works in Astral Plane include a new series of tapestries, ceramic objects, and a wicker sculpture.
Because of its wide-ranging anthropological significance, its inherent tactility, and its dependence upon the transformative role played by fire, ceramics has long played an important role in Perret's work. Here she demonstrates several new approaches to the medium. In a series of wall-based objects on view, she has allowed a platinum glaze to undergo chemical reactions that leave it riddled with ghostly patterns evocative of nebulae or the "paranormal" entities captured by early spirit photography. Indeed, because these effects cannot be controlled once the piece enters the kiln, they are records of a process that exceeds human intervention; they are the incidental visual expressions of a non-visual phenomenon. The platinum works offer a contrast to other wall-based ceramics whose bold, saturated glazes heighten their forms, which are either handled and torn (and therefore highly expressive), or sharply defined and pop-like.
A black wicker sculpture of a donkey lends a contrasting aura of figuration to the mutability and formal openness that define the rest of the show. At the same time, its woven construction makes it a bearer of geometric patterning, and therefore representative of yet another variant of applied abstraction. However, it is the narrative possibility suggested by this beast of burden (titled Black Balthazar, after the film by Robert Bresson) that channels the underlying philosophical positions central to Astral Plane. A symbol of labor and humility, the donkey is, like the ceramic vessel, a mode of transport often considered secondary to what it is asked to carry. As such, it is also a metaphor for the fleeting, transient nature of the material world, and a reminder that all physical forms are temporary.
David Kordansky Gallery Website