Vessels: Function and Whimsy in Clay.

At the Arts Fund Gallery. Shows through August 25.

Given the number of meanings-literal, metaphorical, nautical, anatomic, botanic-invoked by the word “vessel,” it’s reasonable to expect a ceramics show devoted to the concept to display a certain eclecticism, as does the exhibition now on display at the Arts Fund Gallery through August 25.

Indeed, a number of the artists in the show display a strong diversity of style within their works. Oscar Bucher, in particular, shows himself to be the master of many styles and techniques, from the Zen simplicity of “Bronze Glaze Vessel,” to the organicism of “Large Crater Bowl,” to the vivacity of his brightly hued “Slab Sculpture with Lid.” With his untitled works, Roy Prince also offers, on the one hand, the minimalism of a gently faceted grey vase and, on the other, the whimsy of a baroque palm-tree shaped container.

Francine Kirsch's "Vessel."

The differences between the artists are striking as well. Joan Rosenberg Dent’s works are all dark and delicate, meditations on the spout and funnel. Deanna Pini’s explorations of the Sudoku theme are gentle in color and shape, just larger than hand-sized, while Danyel Dean’s vessels are more ornate, organic, and Asian-inspired. Scott Chatenever’s pods and friezes explore browns and ochres, impressed patterns and natural forms, whether vegetable or animal, including the graceful circular shapes of “Archipelago.” Francine Kirsch merges the literal and the metaphoric in her sensuous explorations of the female form, both simply titled “Vessel.”

But if this description creates the impression of a disparate show, it does wrong. Each of the artists involved in the show is an expert craftsperson. What is most striking about the display is how each piece stands so firmly in its strength that it can allow itself to be utterly quiet. There is no pushing and jostling here. Each work gives you the time to contemplate it and then move on, a process that reveals a strong core concept-the notion of holding and being held in all its many senses-despite all the surface variety.

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