“The sculptures are about finding inner strength and the paintings are about making sense of a world beyond my control. The basis of this exhibition is The Linkage between these energies.”
– John Balistreri, 2022
In his solo exhibition, at Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, John Balistreri presents two bodies of work that are in conversation. Known as a master of ceramics and expert in the ancient art of firing a traditional wood kiln, Balistreri presents his signature ceramic sculpture, lush with wood ash glaze and architectural form. In the gallery installation, the sculpture is in dialogue with energetic paintings full of the push and pull of visual tension.
In building with clay, the artist must contend with the physical forces of gravity but in painting there are no such constraints. Balistreri discovered that the freedom of painting to explore form, line, and color and the ability to make ongoing changes was liberating. The back and forth of these two symbiotic activities, ceramics and painting, revealed new insight into abstraction and reinforced the strength of both media.
The paintings in Linkage were created prior to the pandemic and began as a concern with changes in society triggered by digital information and social media. The artist refers to the structure of the paintings as “hives” of disparate energies.
The sculptures in Linkage were begun during the pandemic with most created since August of 2021. The totemic and architectural ceramic sculptures evoke the opposite energy of the paintings. Where the paintings are in flux, shape-shifting, the sculpture is steadfast stabile, strong and balanced. Together they form a yin and yang response to the difficult and uncertain time we live in.
John Balistreri received his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1986 and his MFA from Kent State University in 1988. He is currently a Professor of Art and the head of the Ceramic Program at Bowling Green State University where he has been teaching since 1996. He is best known for his large-scale ceramic sculptures and innovations related to 3D ceramic printing. Balistreri recently received a major public art commission for the new Kansas City International Airport which will consist of large-scale ceramic airplane wings.