Today, the skills being taught in many ceramics institutions have shifted their focus from a Leach/vessel based tradition to a more post-modern, conceptually oriented ceramics. The distinction between much ceramics and sculpture has blurred. The main difference remaining in the work of many artists is the adherence to the material, an occurance less prevalent in sculptural circles.
This shift in focus towards the concept has led to the exploration by many ceramic artists of a geometric abstract ceramics, which investigates form and geometry, in many cases combined with the unique surface qualities achievable with the unglazerd surface. The work of Pilar Rojas, winner of the 1997 CerCon Awards is one such example. Her large unglazed forms are an exploration of geometry and its associations: "Objects that are not exact representations of natural or synthetic forms construct a new world of objects and images that can be suggestive of already existing ones, inviting reflection and contemplation." From the judge's statement: "The winning entry, 'Halved' by Pilar Rojas, uses subtle variations of shape to suggest varied spatial moieties, from stone fruit to bowls. The burnished surface adds a contemplative tone to this exploration."
Taking the form of geometric abstraction in ceramics to its extreme is Jan Friedman, whose glazed geometric panels are reminiscent of earlier experiments in the post-painterly abstraction period of the 50's and 60's, eg. Joseph Albers or Ad Reinhardt.
Of course these are only a few representaives on the Net, there are those who are involved in geometric abstraction off-line. (I could name half a dozen in my home town without much reflection.) What is the strength or appeal of this type of work? Often a critical analysis will only skim the surface, talking about form, surface qualities, but little about meaning or quality of the work. Perhaps the new holy grail of conceptual art in ceramics needs a closer looking at...