Born To Kiln

Born To Kiln

CERAMICIST BEN MEDANSKY IS REIGNITING INTEREST IN HIS OWN INDUSTRY BY INTEGRATING DESIGN ELEMENTS FROM ANOTHER: AERONAUTICS.

CERAMICIST BEN MEDANSKY IS REIGNITING INTEREST IN HIS OWN INDUSTRY BY INTEGRATING DESIGN ELEMENTS FROM ANOTHER: AERONAUTICS.

Photography: Nicholas Alan Cope

Text: Joseph Akel

BUY VMAN 32

Working out of his Los Angeles studio, surrounded by smokestacks and electrical transformers, ceramicist Ben Medansky uses handmade techniques and heavy-duty machinery to create monochromatic, minimalist meditations on industrial forms. For his most recent series of housewares, Medansky appropriated fins, vanes, and foils- the kind you'd see on drones, missiles, and power generators.

According to Medansky, his inspiration can be traced back to the time when he shared a studio space with several motorcycle mechanics. "Seeing those elements made me want to reproduce them on a soft material, like a bowl," he says, recalling the gears and flanges found on bikes. Since moving to his new studio, Medansky has produced creations that make reference to the likes of early V-2 rocket diagrams and Cold War-era space race propaganda. For a multi-finned, matte-black bowl (pictured above), he chose the name Laika, taken from the Soviet canine who was the first living creature to orbit the planet.

An artist quick to embrace the motifs of industry, Medansky also believes in usability. After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, he made his way west, apprenticing with the likes of '80s postmodern guru Peter Shire, the Haas Brothers, and San Francisco's legendary Heath Ceramics. Elements of Shire's stylistic irreverence and the renowned Heath functionality play out equally in several of Medansky's creations, among them a tobacco pipe that would make Donald Judd swoon and a dildo that found its way onto the blog of a well-known porn star. Medansky, for his part, is unabashed by linking ceramics with vice. After all, sex sells.

That said, ceramics has in past decades been largely overlooked by mainstream culture. Now, however, as demonstrated by crowd-drawing shows, such as LACMA's captivating Ken Price retrospective last year and Shio Kusaka's exhibition at New York's Anton Kern Gallery, ceramics is in vogue, and Medansky is one among a new wave of younger practitioners who have returned to the traditional form and infused it with contemporary themes. For him, the shared link between rocket science and ceramics is no great astronomical leap, but a recognition of the medium's durability. After all, NASA used ceramic tiles for the protection of shuttles during reentry. Now put that in your ceramic pipe and smoke it.

Credits: PHOTO ASSISTANT NICK BERKOFSKY LOCATION LIGHTBOX STUDIOS, LOS ANGELES

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