The narrator of Edward Fitzgerald's popular poetic classic, "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam," bumbles into a potter's shop and finds it, "Strange to say among this earthen lot/ Some could articulate while others could not."
It's the same problem with ceramic art. The form occupies odd turf where art shades into craft. It is not always clear in what language it speaks. Happily, the dilemma does not touch the work of Briton Andrew Lord. The artist, who works in New York, makes vases, pitchers and pots that are unmistakably sculpture without being either cute or self-consciously arty although they allude to other art.
These days, the practice of stylistic quotation is most often used as self-aggrandizing pandering to an in-group sensibility. In Lord's work, it functions as a self-administered challenge to formal problem solving. A group of slate-gray containers look like they marched straight out of analytic Cubist paintings, but Lord uses their suggestions of faceting and multiple perspective to arrive at a vital three-dimensional translation.
A set titled "In Colored Light" is glazed with ebulliently lyric Abstract Expressionist brushing that functions to dissolve and reconstitute form in original fashion. Other examples recall everything from Italian metaphysical still life to ancient classical amphorae or Picasso's joie de vivre ceramics. (The last are a particularly good trick considering they are black.)
It is exceedingly rare to run into a ceramic artist who, at a stroke, joins the ranks of such masters as Peter Voulkos and Kenneth Price, but Lord is clearly their sensitive peer. (Margo Leavin Gallery, 812 N. Robertson Blvd., to June 15.)