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Abel Zavala’s Spores at Design Miami/Basel

Jun 5, 2018

In a commission by ammann//gallery, the Mexican ceramist explores the organic arrangements created by the vegetal process of sporulation

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Text by Rab Messina
Photography by courtesy of ammann//gallery

Abel Zavala is humble about his position in the grand timeline of this planet: as a ceramist who uses earthly materials to produce work, he takes a step further and concedes to the organisms that have witnessed millions of years of life on earth. “They are species that are generally unnoticed by human beings, but they’ve survived modern times and are there to remind us that a world apart, hard to understand but easy to admire, is everywhere,” he’s explained.

That’s why the Mexican artist chose to closely follow sporulation, the process wherein life-bearing spores form in plants and are dispersed by the wind, for his participation at Design Miami/Basel 2018. Commissioned by ammann//gallery, the organic arrangement of the Genesis wall sculptures and his larvae-like porcelain pieces are meant to remind viewers of how ceramics both connects us directly to the soil and lead the way in mankind’s achievements in utilitarian design.

We spoke with Zavala about his choice of materials and his interest in spores.

TLmag: How would you describe your practice?
Abel Zavala: I have two lines of work: sculpture and functional objects. I am interested in the way the barriers between art and design are blurred.

My sculptural work is focused on the senses and the exaltation of materials. I mainly use ceramic and I choose simple forms so that the whiteness of porcelain, the metallic finish given by cobalt or iron oxides, as well as the stone or mineral appearance of clay, have a bigger role. My forms are organic; I take inspiration from the nature of the place where I live. I look at the behaviour of certain plants, how they coexist with others or how they reproduce. My pieces are usually accumulations that form environments and are integrated into the architecture of the space where they are exhibited; to appreciate them, the touch and the transit of the spectator are important.

In my functional line I turn to the principles of my personal work, resulting in pieces that can be used as bowls and at the same time they can be sculptural object.

What inspires your choice of materials?
I’m interested in getting closer to the primitive, to pure minerals. Ceramic is my favourite medium of expression because it is very versatile; it allows me to make sculptural installations but also the mug in which I drink my coffee. It fills me with inspiration to visit the Museum of Anthropology of Xalapa, the city where I live, to observe the ceramics of the cultures that inhabited these lands thousands of years ago, and to think that to this day I can use this ancestral technique to express myself.

Why sporulation?
The Sporulation or Genesis was a special commission from ammann//gallery, which has exhibited my work for the past couple of years. It is inspired by the reproduction of the arborescent fern that inhabits the cloud forest: the spores are light and translucent, they are made to be carried by the wind and generate a new plant in the place where they fall.

I used high-temperature ceramic finished with black metallic oxides; each piece has small perforations that give the illusion that you can see through them.

This series talks about flights and travel, local and global environments. They are pieces produced in my studio in Mexico, but they take a bit of my surroundings to distant lands.

Zavala’s new series will be on display at Design Miami/Basel between June 12-17

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Open Larvae 03
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Black Open Larvae
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Epiphytes
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White Larvae
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Genesis Bowls
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