By Lorezno Vega, American Ceramics
|Spirit House Complex (1997), porcelain, wood |
In a show of his most recent "Spirit Houses" Lee Kavaljian has again created a series as intricatley carved and modeled as there is on the West Coast. Kavaljian, a senior artist of the Sacramento/Davis matrix, has na enormous following among ceramic art collectors in the area an and numerous adherents to his styles and techniques. A Chinese language scholar and an enthusiastic student of Asian art, his work presents a unified imagery and vision, along with all the romance of historical reference. Each piece is meticulously carved from sheets of clay. Thirty or 40 systematically selected colors are applied with calligraphic brushes and sponges. The layers of color are then fired repeatedly over a period of several weeks until a surface is created with an aesthetic dimension to it only possible with a conscious pursuit of a certain consequential purpose. Although color is freely applied in so many layers, these pieces do not have a feel of the "happy accident." Rather than possessing any particular spiritual content, these works are containers for a self-renewing sprituality. The consistently robust and dynamic austerity of these architecturally inspired works are subject to the most intimate inspection by viewers in their gallery installation. People seem to want to climb inside each piece to experience the inherently ascetic life implied by them. The Spirist Complex is a work in which all of the elements of a sculpture by Kavaljian are at play. The stairway up to a tower, the tower itself, painted black on the inside, and a square "house" to which to tower is attached, lead the viewer up to a vantage point at the top of the stairs or into the higher view from the tower. The works are all in the same scale, about 20 to 40 inches tall. They are "open" for viewing, that is, they all have open doors and windows that compel the viewer to look inside and enter into the narrative. The "Spirit Houses" employ an implicit sense of history as a totem, and they are its ritual object. They present the sensuality of a kind of ancient utopia emerging and presenting itself to the present.