Using clay to add a surreality to regular objects isn’t a new idea in art, but Nicholas Nyland and Yuki Nakamura do it particularly well — and their most recent work fits in perfectly with the quirky, stylish vibe at downtown Tacoma’s Moss+Mineral. Nestling among the angular plants and modish mid-century craft in the small gallery-shop, Nyland’s painted clay creatures and Nakamura’s everyday-object replicas add a layer of symbolism and animation.
Called “This Fragile World,” the mini-exhibition showcases both Tacoma artists’ ability to riff on the merely ordinary and lift it to a new level of meaning. Nakamura has four different series on display, including her iconic “soccer balls” — ceramic replicas of the actual thing, in honor of her brother, a soccer fanatic who died young. Resting here on a table (rather than their usual suspended state), the balls are mutely evocative, especially the unglazed one with two deflated dents — a child’s ball unpumped and forgotten, a hope lost. Her “lightbulbs” transform a near-historic item into eternal porcelain, jutting out of the table like ideas. Half are crisscrossed with electric-bright zings of paint, others sport sharp metallic pinpricks. One lies on its side, unglazed and rather sad, a symbol for obsolescent beauty. Nearby, Nakamura’s “kanji” series inscribe Japanese characters onto pastel-glazed hexagrams that fit together, moving language into the realm of pure decoration.
Nyland, meanwhile, transforms clay into objects of imagination. His small, paint-splotched forms range from squidgy vessels rimmed with finger-like coils to three-legged biomorphic creatures and personable geometric forms, like a giant cube textured and striped like a canvas awning, bizarre in the marriage of completely incompatible form and use.
Both artists’ work fits smoothly into the intriguing, ever-changing mix that is Moss+Mineral: spiky succulents, suave furniture and unique terraria, like the airplant sprouting from a vintage microscope under a Victorian bell jar.