SOFA Chicago 2013 Notes

I had an eye opening experience at the SOFA (Sculpture Objects Functional Arts & Design) exposition in Chicago the first weekend of November.  My first time at this world’s foremost fair for art objects was beyond any expectations I had.  My focus for this post is mainly on the somewhat functional objects such as vases, vessels, cubes and spheres  etc…

In my humble opinion, the most lyrical group of work  had to be works in ceramics while the most delicate intricacies were found in wood turning art and the most intriguing works lay in art glass objects.  I had a blast zigzagging through the exhibits and found myself tremendously energized as the first day at art school being surrounded by the wonders of  much gifted artists and their arts. There I was, a novice in this world of art objects, enthralled by their art forms, curious of their techniques and most of all at awe by the purity and singularity of thoughts that went through in their making.

Ceramic Works –

Ceramic and porcelain works excel in their inherent wabi sabi nature- the perfection is found in the elegance of the shapes and the beauteous imperfection graces in the lines, textures, and glazes.

Dutch Ceramicist Henk Wolvers produced paper thin porcelain bowls and cups. The fragility of the pieces was even more pronounced when they were perforated. I wondered if the pieces would dissolve if I touched them.

henk4Swiss artist Arnold Annen had his own touch of thin porcelain by giving it a translucency with moon like allure.


I have always been a fan of Jun Kaneko and was thrilled to see more colors in his recent works.


Carved clay vessels by Halima Cassell exuded an earthiness quality that’s unsettling at the same time.


Elizabeth Fritsch’s vessels defining elegance in elongated necklines.
Elizabeth Fritschturquoise450Texture and luxury in one scoop. Takeshi Yasuda juxtaposed subtle celadon with vibrant gold.

celadon and gold bowl 3

Patricia Shone gave us earthy textures with her raku fired pieces.


Wood Turned Art-

Wood turned art has reached a zenith with artful combinations of techniques and visions – a long way from the Egyptian wood lathe.  In these art objects, I detected  more the level of control and precision when much of the art involved subtraction rather than building. The play is in understanding the wood species, the grains and textures and the wonder is in the geometric exercises conjured by the most creative minds.

J Paul Fennell managed to make organic shapes mysterious.


Christian Burchard defined ethereal with his white baskets made of bleached madrone burl wood.


Philip Moulthrop engaged us with mosaic turned wood bowls.


Ron Layton created thin vessels of lace like repetitive motifs.


The artist with the most appropriate last name – Neil Turner used carving and wood turning techniques to achieve an eerie skeletal mesh sculpture.


Artist Binh Pho gave us the most intense intricacies with his turned and sculpted vessels. The forever consummate artist chronicled his life journeys,  mythical dream places and tales through precision in the cut work and transience in the fragilities of his art pieces.


Glass Works –

In this field, one saw an explosion of colors and layering. The wonder never ceased with the creativity among the artists being so relentless in their pursuit of poetry in art forms.

Keith Clayton’s pate de verre pieces were a hit.


Glass artist Wilfried Grootens amazed us with optical glass that were painted, laminated and out of this world.


Niyoko Ikuta wowed us with spiraling sheets of glass of such ethereal beauty, the pieces seemed ready to take flight.


Argentinian artist Edgardo De Bortoli’s cube were meshed like glass with a side “peeled” out.


Masaaki Yonemoto’s architectural pieces were of cut and polished sheet glass that mirrored themselves.


If laboratories have specimen jars like Steffen Dam’s work, the world would have more scientists than any other professions.


Streetscape dioramas by Mikyoung Jung brought smiles to all audiences and voyeurism to a delight.


The Italian maestro of glass Lino Tagliapietra hypnotized us with swirls of colors in the most sensual shapes.


Midori Tsukada combined glass casting, blowing and cutting techniques and came up with grace in texture and layering.


Kiln casted glass “blocks” by Hyewook Huh took advantage of the glass translucency to show off depths.


Good old hand blown glass never looked better in the hands of Australian glass artist Noel Hart. I have lived too long in urban areas and couldn’t fathom that the inspiration of his works comes from birds’ plummage. Maybe a trip to the Marquesas Islands is on order.


The Ensemble –

There were many other mediums such as metals, jewelry art, painting, sculptures that I didn’t cover in this post. It was one thing to gaze at an object of beauty. It was quite another experience when one got the thrill of being in a hall full of these objects or seeing the work of one artist en masse. The analogy of being a kid in a candy store didn’t even come close. It was like having all of our senses being confronted, challenged and questioned in a most wondrous way. I got lost in that hall of Wonderland and was pleasantly assaulted by a buzzing energy that could only have come from the all that’s good and beautiful in the human mind.

5632 Arnold Annen

5632 bowlsIMG_5638IMG_5640IMG_5643IMG_5650IMG_5651IMG_5655IMG_5660IMG_5663IMG_5665IMG_5668IMG_5670

I anxiously await to see how the artists’ work will evolve in a year’s time. See you next year!

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