Michelle Laxalt exhibited her latest work in Instar at Hi-Lo Press & Gallery. Laxalt, an Atlanta-based artist, combines ceramics and drawing, wall-hanging and plinth-dwelling works in a cohesive show of otherworldly abstractions.
At Hi-Lo Press, in its new Southeast Atlanta location for the past year, Instar’s opening night drew crowds indoors into two rooms and gathered groups outside the front door, standing in the drizzle. In the first room was the bulk of the artwork. In the back room, small pieces went up for sale alongside a candlelit vigil for Tortuguita, an activist killed earlier that week by police at the Weulanee forest in Atlanta.
The front room contained eleven works by Laxalt. Her ceramic works are eye-catching. Hues of blue and dusty brown finish the textured porcelain sculptures. The surfaces contrast matte and glossy glazes. Plinth pieces echo gestures of the artist’s hand. Pool looks like a curved skeleton fused to a large eggshell, cracked open and displayed for viewers to peer inside at the intricacies. Fume resembles dried coral fanning out from the base and Copper Spine seems like a relief of fingers digging into the sides of the clay body.
Situated next to her three-dimensional pieces are colored pencil drawings displayed on opposite walls. Pinned at each corner, these drawings are like drafts for her sculptures. The jagged edges of the paper emphasize the rough edges of her subjects depicting colorful, winged craters or spiked seashells. These meticulous drawings look like objects belonging to a science fiction film. Like Laxalt’s sculptures on the walls, these drawings depict forms floating weightless on paper.
Laxalt holds her own voice among an array of contemporary ceramicists. One could easily see her work situated alongside Woody de Othello’s sculptures in “Strange Clay,” recently exhibited at Hayward Gallery in London, England. This group show investigated the range of clay as a medium—Instar similarly exhibits ways in which clay can transcend its original state.
Like Laxalt, de Othello oscillates between sculpture and colorful works on paper. His domestic objects distinguish themselves from her studies in nature. Conceptually, pieces like (Instar) Unfurl bridge the backdrop of the interior gallery walls and the exterior natural world similar to Klara Kristalova’s installation Far from here. Both Laxalt and Kristalova hold space for transformative states, whether depicting a human morphing into a flower or organic matter shedding an outer layer.