Chris Dufala: Ceramic Sculpture and Mono-Prints

By Morris, Sara | Ceramics Art & Perception, June 2013 | Go to article overview

Chris Dufala: Ceramic Sculpture and Mono-Prints


Morris, Sara, Ceramics Art & Perception


WHEN A WORK OF ART SUCCESSFULLY fools the eye, it is a testament to the artist's skill in capturing the real. The traditional method of trompe l'oeil has been revisited by a variety of contemporary American ceramics artists, such as Sylvia Hyman and Richard Shaw, whose sculptures convincingly appear as everyday objects. Ceramics artist Chris Dufala is once again reviving this established approach to realism by incorporating the innovative technique of underglaze mono-printing within his trompe l'oeil compositions. Chris Dufala: Ceramic Sculpture and Mono-Prints is the first exhibition of Dufala's work shown in concurrence with the annual conference of the 2012 NCECA, held in Seattle, US. Dufala's work, which he exhibited at the Hallway Gallery in Bellevue, Washington, struck me with its high level of sophistication, not just technically, but intellectually, as if each sculpture possessed a secret that only a careful examination of all its parts could reveal. Ceramic sculptures in the form of obsolete objects from the past, such as a cast-iron iron, wheelbarrow and laundry press, adorned the gallery walls and pedestals. Actual objects such as these, which once assisted the average person with everyday tasks with the intent to make life easier, now, like old black and white photos, serve as ghostly reminders of a simpler time. Children's toys can also be found within Dufala's compositions, such as the wagon and unicycle, which recent technology has now replaced with the latest widget and app. For Dufala, perhaps these nostalgic devices mark the start of humanity's move toward a suburban domesticity. During an interview I had with Dufala, he termed these banal tools and toys "objects of convenience". His work seems to suggest that these objects pull humanity away from nature and toward a society that increasingly relies upon technology. Ironically, Dufala does not solely employ traditional approaches within his own work, but is constantly exploring his medium: "I am always trying to push the limits of what clay is capable of doing, what processes are new and intriguing to me and how I can continue to progress an idea or building process."

Dufala's recent work exhibits a Shawian approach to detail that is capable of baffling even the most accustomed gallery goer. Most elements in his sculptures do not appear to be ceramic at all, but real wood, steel, nails, screws, wheels and rods. Each realistic element has a compositional purpose, which at first seems to only assist the sculpture mechanically, as if the work could actually function. The sculptures' degree of verisimilitude is compromised by their non-functionality. The effect of the illusion is to create a sense of delusion--the viewer is deceived by the sculpture, as one is capable of being persuaded by the economy. For tucked within Dufala's concept are the inherent natures of trompe l'oeil sculpture and corporate economics, since each has the ability to persuade or, to use the more violent term, lie. A sense of economical falseness can also be seen in Dufala's free-standing sculptures, such as Corporate Economics, which appears to be an overturned wheel barrel that looks more like a trap than a sculpture. …

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