Karen Koblitz, Cultural Diplomacy; A Mid-career Survey
El Camino College Art Gallery
Through April 26, 2018.
By Genie Davis
Koblitz describes her lush and lovely work as paying “homage to the functional roots of ceramics while elaborating on historical and decorative elements. The influences seen in my work come from life experiences, travels and readings.”
The artist has studied in Florence, Italy and worked as a designer for a Maiolica factory in the Umbrian region of Italy. She’s participated in exhibitions and collaborations in Italy, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Israel, as well as the U.S. From a presentation of iconic Los Angeles locations at the All Russian Museum of Decorative, Applied, and Folk Arts through a stint as the Art Ambassador in Baku, Azerbaijan and a solo show based on her experiences there, to speaking at a ceramics symposium in Israel, Koblitz has translated her travels and experiences into art that jumps off the map and into the mind. In her most recent body of work, Objects of Memory, the territory is different, that of memory and her childhood home in Los Angeles.
Throughout the exhibition at El Camino, Koblitz creates evocative images, ceramic sculptures that are redolent of place but which go beyond geography and into a more uncharted realm, in which experience, memory, and dream all meld.
Certainly, the rich blue pattern of her earthenware Mohammed’s Line evokes a dream like state, a piece that is many sided and complex, both traditional and innovative, perfect yet slightly surreal. A later stoneware piece, the titular aqua and deep grey Cultural Diplomacy features a creature straight from mythology, a griffin-like creature, all folded wings and scaled legs, precise toes waiting to leap from the ground. The figure bears cornucopia-shaped cups, as if carrying the weight of the world – or its diplomacy- on its back. As with a number of Koblitz’ pieces, there is an element of the fantastical and even whimsical, yet that whimsy is couched in serious, beautiful art. This is museum-quality work with a timeless edge.
The wonderful range of color in Nino Has Laughing Eyes is captivating. Multiple, eye-shaped pieces seem to dance or float around a central rectangular form in which the image of a vase is embedded. The framing of each colorful piece in what appears as if raw brown earthenware, makes the colors of the contained images seem almost fantastical. The colored images are infused with floral patterns and have a mosaic-like feel.
A family shaped like Russian nesting dolls are positioned on a curved, ruby-red, glossy stand, embedded with jewels; Koblitz’ LA landmark plates are as vibrantly colored as a Southern California sunset or a neon-streaked street; the pale and more somber coloration of pieces from her Objects of Memory series include a delicate stand-out Chinese cabinet that could be holding the treasures – or lost dreams – of a generation.
What is quite remarkable and wonderful about Koblitz is her utter sense of command: from the almost colorless works that replicate objects in her family home to the rich, color-splashed objects of earlier pieces, these are intensely perfect forms, to be studied and savored as emblems of culture brought to the gallery with the zest of a true explorer – or diplomat.
El Camino College Art Gallery
16007 Crenshaw Blvd.
Torrance, California 90506
Catalog signing by Karen Koblitz:
Special gallery hours:
Saturday and Sunday, April 21 & 22, 11am-3pm
Regular gallery hours:
Monday & Tuesday, 8am-3pm; Wednesday & Thursday, 12-7:30pm