Chris Staley is marvelously adept at transforming traditional ceramic forms into organic abstractions. Fluid sweeps of clay and soft-colored glazes turn a teapot, large plates, vases and covered jars into lyrical landscapes that use clay's plasticity gracefully. One turquoise and brown jar looks like a wave made solid, and it accomplishes that feat without a hint of trickiness. An off-white plate puts one in mind of a cropped beach, with half swept clean and the other half covered with rivulets of water.
In a tandem show, veteran artist Beatrice Wood lets loose her bawdy sense of humor in a group of little ceramic figures. She doesn't always spell out debauchery, she just sets out the players and lets us expect the worst of them. A middle-aged gent with a mustache and top hat sits stiffly on a chair holding a prim little blond girl on his lap in "Innocence Is Not Enough." He doesn't touch her or even ogle her, but we know he's a lecher. "The Dreamer" portrays a younger man's fantasy by sitting him on a bench, flanked by two smaller nude women.
Wood pulls no punches in "The Superior Masculine Mind" portraying an ominous male with one foot on a prostrate old woman. "The Widow" turns the tables by depicting an aggressive woman overwhelming her dancing partner. These are only cartoons in clay, but they work in the way of all humor that's honed on human experience. (Garth Clark Gallery, 170 S. La Brea Ave, to June 1.)