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.