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Review: Marva Pitchford Jolly, “Listening to Memories”/Southside Community Arts Center

Bronzeville, Ceramics Add comments

A few thousand years after the fall of civilization, some anthropologist digging at the site of modern-day Bronzeville will examine the Carbon-14 readings taken from a fiber in one of Marva Jolly’s clay pots and collapse into confusion. Surely they’ll wonder why the twenty-first-century artisan opted to capture such full scenes using minimalist techniques, mineral colors and, frankly, the most ancient medium available. Then, hopefully, they’ll look closer. To try and delve meaning from one of Jolly’s purposefully under-ornamented ceramic pieces is to take a disorienting plunge into contemporary antiquity. Simply speaking, her art plays with core relationships and experiences on utilitarian ceramic objects—a tradition far older than any written language. Yet, Jolly manages to project through this modest practice something wholly evocative. Larger pots such as “Memorial Day in Washington Park” marvelously draw upon the surface curve to exhibit motion and purpose, while her new “Spirit Women” series targets expression through innovative facial manifestations. At the southeast corner of the exhibition space, the largest story pot in terms of both girth and topic, “Katrina,” casts an alluring spell. The vague and haunting notions that the work manipulates raise countless itching questions, but, really, who can ask the ancients what they were thinking? (Patrick Klemz) Through November 30 at Southside Community Arts Center

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