Clay Work in SJSU’s Herbert Sanders Gallery
By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Presley Martin uses clay, paper and graphite in some engaging ways. His exhibition in the Herbert Sanders Gallery at San Jose State University is arresting for intriguing forms and materials that are initially unidentifiable to the viewer. They are elegant in their simplicity and even evoke a chuckle over some of the titles.

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Untitled, with its metalic appearance and paper thin reality is a conundrum.

The greatest impact upon entry to the gallery is the large Untitled three-panel screen-like form hanging about eight inches from the wall. Each horizontal panel is a sheet of thin drawing paper saturated with powdered graphite, polished and then puckered, both vertically and horizontally, by having been draped over long parallel strips of wet porcelain. It looks like corrugated tin with a vertical striation, perhaps a functional thing, but it really cannot be explained. Part of its inherent mystery and appeal in the gallery context is the collection of shadows that surround it.

Other graphite treated papers – in this case, having been rubbed with the graphite stick, they emerge more grayed – are draped over rings of wet porcelain which again raises and puckers the paper. Influence has two raised organic circles floating within its border, and Loner has one. They are in a curious place between drawing and sculpture. Martin shows a series of smaller drawings in which the wet slip of porcelain, dripped onto the graphite treated paper creates lighter images, abstract but sometimes vaguely figurative.

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Presley Martin’s Consensus

In Consensus, Martin takes the long strips of porcelain clay used to make Untitled, and flattens them, painting one end light blue. He lines them up along the wall in two rows with the blue ends facing each other. They look so serious, like some kind of residue from a lab experiment. From the title, we note once more that the artist sees anthropomorphic elements in his little lumps of clay.

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Double Negative (Cassius Clay), by Presley Martin

Martin’s Double Negative (Cassius Clay), is a pair of fringed-edged horizontal lengths of black clay that curl outward more and more so at the ends of each band. The elements are extremely fragile and yet claw-like as they reach forward. Here again, Martin has pushed clay’s ability to be sculptural, and still, delicate and startlingly precarious.

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