Kiln Remnants

Kiln Remnants was on view at The Coop April 26–May 3, 2020.

Kiln Remnants gathers together a relatively small portion of an extensive body of material related to the creation of wood-fired kilns, collected by artist and educator Edward Isto over the course of several decades, beginning in the 1970s when he and his wife Denise Isto moved from Alaska to a 160-acre area of wooded land in rural southwestern Oregon. As its title suggests, the exhibitioncontains a variety of objects left over from different stages of the building and firing of wood kilns.

Edward built his first wood-fired kiln in Oregon, SOAP (a name drawn from the brand stamped on one of the bricks used to build it) in the early 1980s, but in January of 1986, he deconstructed it to create the larger SOAP II, which he began firing in April of that year. To date, he has fired this kiln more than 50 times. A cast iron grate formerly used in one of the fireboxes of SOAP II is displayed, as are the remains of the door to a smaller kiln (mostly used for bisque firing) also created from the remains of the first SOAP kiln.

Over more than 40 years, Edward has accumulated an extensive collection of firebricks, many of them sourced from mines and industrial sites in Oregon. Many of these bricks have been stored on the Istos’ property for years, and towards the end of the first decade of the 2000s, Edward began to use them for the construction of a large (as yet untitled) two-chamber wood-fired kiln, located adjacent to the gallery space. In the course of creating this new (still incomplete) kiln project, Edward has gathered a collection of the different brands of bricks used, many of which have specific regional histories tying together ceramic brick production across the Americas (as names like Aztex, Diablo, and American: Dense attest).

Among the firebricks Edward has collected are a large number from the former Hanna Nickel Mine near Riddle, OR. Presumably once used as insulation for ladles in the process of melting and casting nickel, many of these bricks have begun to deteriorate over time, slowly cracking apart in patterns that give the impression of a slow process of explosion, breaking apart from the inside out. Several of these works, which Edward has previously exhibited under the collective title Periclase Apocalypse, are included in the exhibition space.

While the individual works on view in Kiln Remnants are often aesthetically compelling as found sculpture, they also constitute a portion of an archive, dynamic traces of extreme temperatures and the slow progress of time, charting the interaction of networks of human effort and material transformation.

Curated by Raino Isto

Installation views:

Kiln Remnants: Exhibition Map