Sculpture Magazine article by Scott Rothstein

Wendy Steinberg Article


American Pottery by Kevin A. Hluch


Jill Bonovitz: Artist - a video by John Thornton


Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia


The Leeway Foundation


Moore College of Art and Design


Philadelphia International Airport: Art and Exhibitions


Santa Monica Museum of Art



Forming Lines

Jill Bonovitz | Judith Scott | Japanese Ikebana Baskets

January 12 – February 18, 2006

Ricco | Maresca is pleased to present Forming Lines, an exhibition of 3-dimensional works exploring the physicality of the line through fibers, reeds, and wire. In spite of the works’ diverse origins, uncanny similarities are evident in Jill Bonovitz's art-historically informed vessel sculptures, Judith Scott’s compulsively wrapped objects, and the exquisitely crafted forms of Japanese Ikebana baskets.


In contrast to the density of Judith Scott’s wrappings, Jill Bonovitz creates ethereal wire sculptures suggestive of baskets but entirely non-functional. The organic loops of wire, punctuated by occasional blossoms or small beads, evolve intuitively into fluid forms which recall line-drawings. While Bonovitz’s previously acclaimed ceramic work drew on ancient pottery traditions, these wire sculptures have been influenced by both self-taught artists and Abstract Expressionism.


Santa Monica Museum of Art Presents

Project Room 2 – Jill Bonovitz: Penetrable Vessels

June 11-August 13, 2005


Santa Monica, CA – May 9, 2005 – From June 11 to August 13, 2005, Santa Monica Museum of Art presents Jill Bonovitz: Pentrable Vessels in Project Room 2. The opening reception is Friday, June 10, 7:30-9pm with support provided by Izze, Ma’ Kai Lounge Patron Spirits, Wild Oats Markets, and Willow Spa.


In Jill Bonovitz: Penetrable Vessels the artist uses the thinnest wire to create in her words “the edges of what’s not there.” These intimate, ethereal, and personal vessel forms, at once intriguing and playful, reveal how the shapes between the wires are just as important as the wires themselves. At certain angles the forms seem to vanish, magically reappearing when seen from a different point of view. In this body of work, Bonovitz explores a range of aesthetic interests – the process of drawing, the physicality of sculpted objects, and the translucency of materials – that have engaged her over over the past twenty-five years of working in clay.


Jill Bonovitz studied at Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia. Her work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, and is in the public collections of such institutions as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland. Bonovitz lives and works in Philadelphia.


SMMoA is located at Bergamot Station, G1, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica. SMMoA is open Tuesday through Saturday 11am to 6pm, closed Sunday, Monday, and all legal holidays. For further information about exhibitions and educational programming, please call 310-586-6488 or visit


Schumacher, Mary Louise. “Jill Bonovitz at John Michael Kohler Arts Center.”
American Ceramics, 2004, 58, ill.


Perched on a shelf in a hallway outside of the main exhibition spaces, Jill Bonovitz’s delicate porcelain vessels are oddly reminiscent of the clever drolleries found in the bas-de-pages of Medieval prayer books. In a grisaille CQ-like gray, each one has its very own playful personality and posture. They sit precariously on tiny feet, with sensual bodies that swell and cinch and subtly push out in one direction or another, like a child sticking out a tummy or a dancer swinging out a hop. Lined up side-by-side, they seem to dance and converse as people would.


The John Michael Kohler Arts Center, a champion on the diminishing line between “craft art” and High art,” presented the “Jill Bonovitz: A Simple Twist” exhibition as worthy of aesthetic contemplation. Not unlike the marginalia previously mentioned, though the sprightly little vessels are perhaps more suited to frame and contextualize work more worthy of meditation. This makes the placement of the petite pitchers in the passageway to more substantial exhibits quite appropriate.


Still, Bonotvitz has made no grand cultural critique here, she does firmly buttress a line of argument within the discourse about material arts. The pitchers, or cups, depending on your point of view, would not likely pass the up-to-the-light test, as much of Bonovitz’s previous work would.


They are not fine, in that literal sense. But their shapes, while puckish and expressive, are also pure and simple, like the forms of Joan Miro or Alexander Calder.


Bonovitz also leaves subtle Post Minimalist notes of her own hand, in the way the handles are rolled, twisted and applied to the sculptural vessels, for example. The artist has mastered her materials and also the vernacular of high art, successfully blurring notions of beauty and utility, as was the aim of the exhibit.

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Rice, Robin. “Jill Bonovitz.” American Ceramics. Volume 11, Number 2, Spring 1994, ill.


In recent earthenware vessels and a wall installation of matte glazed porcelain vases, Jill Bonovitz says more with less. Never an artist of ornament or elaboration, Bonovitz at one time incorporated lines of poetry and layered colors in works of simple form and subtle surface. Now, her interest in ceramics as poetic and spiritual expression has been further refined to a formal mantra in large, open, velvety bowls. A more playful but equally reductive sensibility is expressed in antic grouping of white cylinders.


In the center of the gallery, seven pools of pale color float above discreet gray pedestals. Each is a flattened vessel about two feet in diameter rising a generous handsbreadth from a small but not precarious foot. Tints of terra sigilata bloom softly: jades, grays and powdery earth colors. Each work is a round monochrome painting, a self-contained terrain in which pooling, rippling densities of fluid slip, calligraphic smears in relief and scratches on the surface suggest a crypto-narrative, almost a geologic history.


Each piece appears weightless, cloudlike, timeless: metaphors for being or the world perhaps. Simultaneously, each is an utterly mundane, not-quite regular, not-quite-irregular object with weight, density and texture–an unpretentious, undisguised product of the artist’s hand.


A second body of work consist of 53 unglazed porcelain cylinders formally installed in small familial rows on wall-mounted shelves. The stark silhouettes are uniform in size with glossy, almost vitrified surfaces.


Pronounced spiraling bulges in Bonovitz’s small freely-thrown vases confirm a connection to Japanese teabowls, but these vessels maintain a staid verticality balanced on pearl-like feet, like chess pieces or pre-Columbian figurines.


The thinness and irregularity of the thrown forms suggest that the artis has strectched the clay to the limits of stability. This, like the delicacy of the added coil elements, appears to comment on the fragility and arbitrariness of the human condition, but obliquely, without anguish. Like Bonovitz’s luminous blows, these objects imply something more vast and profound than human concerns.


Scott, William P. "Jill Bonovitz." American Ceramics, February 1991


In her first show at the Helen Drutt Gallery in Philadelphia, Jill Bonovitz exhibited eleven large earthenware vessels. In most of her works Bonovitz incises lines and inscribes words into the clay body and through the slip. Her tentative and irregular markings are layered over the pastel earth colors she applies with the terra sigillata technique. Bonovitz prefers to allow her working method to remain visible. She is like an Expressionist painter whose finished works include the accidental running drips and paint splatters that occur in the course of making a painting. If her ideas for new vessels begin with rigid formulas, as she progressed and her work approaches completion her approach becomes largely improvisational. Bonovitz’s drawn line has been compared to Cy Twombly’s, and her newest pieces reflect her admiration for Indian pots and Japanese tea bowls. At times, when her drawing and color are used primarily for decoration, as in Rain and Secretly (both from 1987), her vision loses its originality and seems to hew to someone else’s standard. Yet, in the newer works, when it functions with greater sensuality, and does not overpower the shape, texture, or color of the clay, the drawing works much more successfully.


Bonovitz’s strongest pieces are those that do not include written words. Perhaps the poems inscribed on several of the pieces are a crucial intellectual inspiration for her, but they sometimes seem like afterthoughts attached in hope of making the work appear more expressive, as in I Know (1989).


The works in this exhibition show a tremendous leap in Bonovitz’s vision. They mark her discovery of an ideal vessel form that not only answers her emotional and formalist interests but that also challenges her complex and inimitable technique.

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Rice, Robin. “Layers and Doodles: Extremes of subtlety at Helen Drutt.” Philadelphia City Paper, December 29, 1999–January 5, 1990


A small group of large vessels by Jill Bonovitz at Helen Drutt Gallery offers a very personal handling of the ceramic medium as a vehicle for non-functional expression.


The shapes are clearly those of shallow containers: wide flattish circular bowls plus one or two with a deeper cupped and squared-off silhouette. To place something in the bowls would be to obscure the central portion of Bonovitz’s “test” – which, in this case includes actual words and phrases.


Most potters glaze the clay with a chemical solution which melts like glass when fired. Bonovitz, like the ancient Greek potters, decorates her work with colored “slips,” which are solutions of finely ground cay and water which bond with the clay body but do not melt at high temperatures.


These complex layers of slip veil her thin-walled structures and suggest an elaborate quest for expression – even though the final form that expression takes remains tentative and sketchy. A piece of which is edged in burnished greyed lavender slip has an interior of cool damp-looking white.


Invisible underlayers of other – often darker – slips provide a nubby, drip-textured, occasionally cracked surface with records a real evolution of thought.


The supposed functional nature of pottery tends to remove it from serious consideration as high art while asserting its right to exist. Bonovitz’s work embraces this contradiction, and others as well, all of which are enriching rather than limiting.


The work is not functional. At first glace the large forms look quite solid because sometimes the walls tend to curve back upon themselves, in a broad flange – a thick hollow rim. Closer inspection reveals the fabric as disturbingly fragile. Often the thin walls have raggedy drippy-looking edges which could snap easily.


This vulnerability s especially appropriate, for a sense of the fragility of human life is on one of the themes evoked by Bonovitz’s work.


The layered slips with which Bonovitz builds up the surface in as many as five firings are nearly invisible. She often draws through the top layer revealing a dark underlayer, but, as in all questions of life, much is forever hidden. The pale colors – peaches, greys, and yellows – are not springlike, but cool and contemplative, almost distancing. There is a suggestion of grief, but also of harmonious acceptance in these colors.


GentleHush is a pale pink bowl, circular in form with a squared center. Wavelike patterns in grey are complemented by the barely decipherable scattered words. “I wake in a large space listening to the gentle hush of waves.”


Water imagery also appears in Rain, the earliest work in the series, a grey bowl with tiny sections of lighter dots. Secretly perhaps contains a landscape and buildings highlighted in soft pinkish dabs within its cool lemon borders.


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Seidel, Miriam. “’Anti-Lamps’ and bowls with words.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer. Friday, November 10, 1989, 38.


The slippery terrain connecting craft and fine-arts concerns is negotiated by two artists in current shows: Jene Highstein at the Fabric Workshop and Jill Bonovitz at Helen Drutt. Both abandon functionalism in their craft-derived work but with widely different intents and effects.


Jill Bonovitz’s low, wide bowls are not intended to hold fruit, but they are influenced by years of making ceramic vessels. Her move toward more emotional content in this new show is given great weight by deep familiarity with her material.


The pieces are colored in matte grays and pinks; the lacy edges of the slabs from which they are constructed are often still visible. Their titles – Gentle hush, Secretly, Softly Sighting, Out of the Dark – suggest the mood of the show. For the first time, Bonovitz has included words on the pieces themselves.


This new series is unusual in the functional ceramic tradition. The pots, no longer strictly functional, are now vessels for inward-looking meaning.



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