FIGURING SPACE | The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA

The Clay Studio | Philadelphia, PA January 12, 2023 ā€“ April 16, 2023

JANUARY 12th to APRIL 16th 2023

Featuring work by Cristina Cordova and Sergei Isupov


The Clay Studio Presents FIGURING SPACE, an Exhibition of Full-scale Figurative Sculptures by a Dozen Top Ceramic Artists Based in America

The Clay Studio (1425 N. American St), Philadelphiaā€™s preeminent ceramic arts and resident artistā€™s center, will present Figuring Space, a new exhibition comprised of full-scale, figurative sculptures by 12 leading ceramic artists based in the United States. Each of the artists explores their individual cultural identity and what it means to be human through their figurative sculptures. The powerful figures will serve as a body of evidence to lay bare the issues that permeate American art and social culture. Figuring Space will open on January 12, 2023, and will be on display in The Clay Studioā€™s Jill Bonovitz Gallery through April 16, 2023.

The body, as a concept, is intimately tied to ceramic art. Clay is often used as a proxy for the physicality of flesh and has the capacity to articulate cultural perspectives, social engagement, and artistic intention. Furthermore, figurative sculptures have been at the center of public debate as monuments honoring individuals with dark histories are being reexamined and sometimes removed. Figuring Space uses that conversation ā€“ who gets to be seen and celebrated – as the backdrop to present a collection of works used to usurp the painful history of bodies on display in American history. Together, the artists will assert their autonomy and subjectivity by presenting cultural critiques through lenses of their own choosing, including race, gender, class, and anti-war ideas as inspiration for their own powerful stories.

Each of the artists selected for Figuring Space is known for creating contemporary, representational work that incorporates concepts and designs inspired by their cultural heritage.


The Clay Studio | 1425 N American Street, Philadelphia, PA

Cristina CoĢrdova, “EVA XV”, 2022, unglazed: finished with burnished earth pigments from the island of Puerto Rico mixed with casein, lime, and oxides; 60 x 18 x 22″.

Sergei Isupov, “On the Way”, 2020, porcelain, slip, glaze, 58.5 x 38 x 18″.



Clay & Conversations: Season 5

bi-weekly zoom conversations (in person and on zoom) at 1 pm on Thursdays


  • View More by Sergei Isupov HERE
  • View More by Cristina Cordova HERE

Native to Puerto Rico, Cristina CĆ³rdova creates figurative compositions that explore the boundary between the materiality of an object and our involuntary dialogues with the self-referential. Images captured through the lens of a Latin American upbringing question socio-cultural notions of gender, race, beauty, and power.Ā  CĆ³rdova has received numerous grants including the North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship Grant, a Virginia Groot Foundation Recognition Grant, several International Association of Art Critics of Puerto Rico awards, and a prestigious United States Artist Fellowship award in 2015.


2022, unglazed: finished with burnished earth pigments from the island of Puerto Rico mixed with casein, lime, and oxides
60 x 18 x 22ā€³


I have been sculpting my daughter since she was 9. This 15-year-old version of Eva is unglazed and finished with burnished earth pigments from the island of Puerto Rico mixed with casein, lime, and oxides. They came specifically from two areas, one in Fajardo near the coast, where the rainforest is, and one from Orocovis in the mountainous center. Written on her back are the words ā€œde monte y marā€ ( ā€œfrom mountain and seaā€ ) in gold, a phrase from the song Verde luz by El Topo (Antonio Cabal Vale), which became a symbol of national Puerto Rican pride and an anti-colonialist anthem.

In my practice, the image of Eva is the embodiment of change and possibility. It speaks to the inevitability of transience and the inherited threads of code that perpetuate both genes and identity. This piece seeks to perform both as a symbol and a relic by holding in its materiality a part of the Island that has thematically bound this whole series through the years, exploring the riches and vulnerabilities of this small Caribbean nation that is my home.


Isupov is the son of a painter and sculptor. While born in Stravapole, Russia in 1963, Isupov was raised in Ukraine from 1964, educated in Kyiv and moved to attend the university of art in Tallinn, Estonia in 1984 at a time when these now separate countries were part of the USSR. Isupovā€™s family, his father, mother and brother, all established artists, currently reside in Kyiv, Ukraine. With the backdrop of the current war there and threats of Russian aggression in Estonia, Isupovā€™s studio work took on an urgency to counter the overwhelming anxiety and concern for his family facing down threats to their safety and the loss of their formerly peaceful lives. Now, with his wife, artist Kadri PƤrnaments and their daughter Roosi, they divide their time between two studios/homes in the USA and Estonia.


2020, large-scale figure, porcelain, slip, glaze, 58.5 x 38 x 18ā€³


On the Way is one of a pair of related, multi-figured, life-sized sculptures produced over several months in 2019-2020. These works strangely, foreshadow the present situation in Ukraine. ā€œMost of my work depicts human relationships through contrasts and comparisons which makes it easy for anyone to find messages or meanings that may or may not be my original intention. Upon reflection, it is easy to connect the expressions, gestures and movements to current events but in reality, all my work comes out of my life experience – growing up during USSR, experiencing its breakup and the establishment of fifteen independent countries – followed by coming to America as a young artist in the 90ā€™s.ā€

Isupov is a master of nonlinear narration. Combined with his unmatched, masterful skills as both painter and sculptor, the resulting works draw from the past and reflect on the present. Semiautobiographical, Isupovā€™s intimate narratives interweave poignant representations of men and women, parents and children, shown alongside one another, their pets pointing to the naive sense of security we hold in our daily lives. These works explore individual, interior landscapes and the continually expanding dualities of the self within complex psychological relationships. Intensely personal yet universal, these works in the context of the present day, remind and call upon us to value, protect and preserve the precarious balance we all stand to lose at any present moment.



*Exhibition Catalog can be ordered HERE.

The Clay Studio: Figuring Space Publication Date: January 2023. This catalog features highlights on the artists in the exhibition and includes commentary by Jennifer Zwilling, Curator & Director of Artistic Programs at TCS, andĀ Dr. Kelli Morgan, who are working together toĀ make Figuring Space relevant to our audiences and the art historical record. Dr. Morgan is a curator, educator, and social justice activist who specializes inĀ American art and visual culture has worked with TCS in the past. Her scholarly and activist work combine to make her incredibly qualified to examine the issues of racial politics and the artistic use of the figure in this exhibition. Morgan has developed and championed new curatorial methodologies that privilege the voices of museum audiences, breaking the misconception that museums should hold all the authority dictating how to experience art. Collaboration with colleagues of varied experiences produce expansive curatorial perspective. Together, we are endeavoring to create an exhibition that can offer truly meaningful experiences for every person who walks into the gallery at The Clay Studio.

  • 2023 Catalog
  • The exhibition catalog also includes color photography of select works in the exhibition.
  • 8 x 10 x .5
  • Available for purchase for $15.00
  • Item:TCS-2252

Upcoming | MAR & APR

Clay & Conversations: Season 5

bi-weekly zoom conversations (in person and on zoom) at 1 pm on Thursdays

Clay & Conversations: Season 5

Series of conversations and get-togethers with ceramic artists, curators, scholars, and friends.

Join The Clay Studio in person at their fourth-floor Conference Room or dial in on Zoom.

OPENING RECEPTION | Thursday, January 12

The Clay Studio will host a special opening reception to launch Figuring Space on Thursday, January 12, from 5 to 8 p.m.


Figuring Space Workshop Creating Expressive Facial Features | Friday, January 13, from 1 to 4 p.m.

For those looking for an in-depth look at Figuring Space, The Clay Studio will host the Figuring Space Workshop ā€“ Creating Expressive Facial Features, a special workshop led by featured artists Sergei Isupov and Jonathan Christensen Caballero. On Friday, January 13, from 1 to 4 p.m., participants of all skill levels will watch the two highly-acclaimed figurative artists give demonstrations as they explain their techniques for creating expressive facial features in clay. The Creating Facial Features in Clay workshop is an in-person-only event.

Tickets to attend are $100 each and available for purchase HERE.
Please contact Josie Bockelman ( for discount information for this workshop.

Figuring Space Symposium | Friday, January 13, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

To further expand on the ideas and themes of this exhibition, The Clay Studio will host a special Figuring Space symposium on January 13, where guests can hear lectures and panel discussions from the artists and curators. From 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., attendees will hear from the twelve featured artists about what making full-scale figurative sculptures means to their art practice. The co-curators, Dr. Morgan and Zwilling, will also share their ideas about figurative sculpture in contemporary art through the lens of social activism as well as the formā€™s evolution throughout American art history.

Both of these events are free and open to the public. Audiences can also register to participate in the Figuring Space symposium virtually by registering HERE .


Tip Toland and Sergei Isupov are two of the dozen artists whose work appears in Figuring Space, an exhibition of life-size ceramic figurative sculpture. We are thrilled to have these talented artists as guests to ask them about their inspirations for the ideas and styles of their work.

Cristina is one of the dozen artists whose work appears in Figuring Space, an exhibition of life-size ceramic figurative sculpture. We are thrilled to have this talented artist as a guest to ask her about her inspirations for the ideas and styles of her work.