Ceramist Matt Merkel Hess, is known for his stoneware, ceramics and sculptures of common everyday objects like laundry baskets, buckets, crates and bricks that relate to both contemporary art and the history of pottery. He calls himself an artist and a potter (claiming not to like the word “ceramicist” because it ends in “cyst”), though he also makes drawings, posters, and conceptual objects. The artist casts these ordinary objects into ceramic sculptures while negating their implied function. Merkel Hess re-sculpts surface details to emphasize the formal constructs of the object’s shape. This practice heightens the notion of the manufactured in comparison to the man-made.
His work is an investigation of ordinary objects as a fusion of tropes. Merkel Hess collapses the meaning of these pieces through the use of his materials, clay and glaze. He is keenly aware of the history of the ceramic vessel, its relationship to consumption, and its historical context in art. Individually, each sculpture maintains its own presence, yet when viewed in collaboration it becomes apparent that Merkel Hess has created a world where the everyday has been transformed into the extraordinary.
He received his MFA from UCLA in 2010. He has had exhibitions ACME in Los Angeles and Salon 94 in New York. His work has been featured at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas and the Laguna Art Museum in California. Merkel Hess was the recipient of the 2009 Elaine Krown Klein Award.