Laith Karmo proclaims the title of “Potter” for his first solo exhibition at Paul Kotula Projects. For it, he has generated a series of vessels that while highly Modern in form celebrate African, Native American, and Middle Eastern histories. Karmo recalls his early experiences as a student exploring those same galleries at the Detroit Institute of Arts where he was struck by the mystical and spiritual power of pottery that emerged through a combination of craftsmanship, symbolism, and ritualized utility.
Constructed primarily from slabs of clay that are sculpted into shape through a process of ribbing and scraping, Karmo’s highly architectural vessels are also fittingly primitive. Remnants of the hand are evident everywhere, from the irregularities of cut and often ocular openings to the pitted skin caused when harder bits of clay are drawn upward through the process of dragging a wooden or metal tool over it. He also uses glaze, at times with layers of china paint pigmented with such natural spices as turmeric, in monochromatic, yet expressionistic applications. Histories of labor and production, his and that of world ceramics, converge in poetic and haunting reinterpretations of pots that question their once Modern aspiration of efficiency.
Karmo has installed more than twenty of his most recent pots on a series of metal storage rack, drawing upon his history as a grocer while also linking the complex contexts for which pottery is often stored and displayed, from ware carts to étagères.
Born in Detroit in 1980, Laith Karmo received his BFA from the College for Creative Studies in 2004 and his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2006. Since then his work has been exhibited in Detroit and New York, including the feature of his expansive installation, Cultivating Civility, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. In 2011 he was awarded a coveted Kresge Artist Fellowship. He lives and works in metro-Detroit.