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ceramic art show

updated wed 13 oct 99


Carl meigs on tue 30 jun 98

LA potters should check out the show at the Cal State LA Fine ARts Gallery
in the Fine Arts Building at 5151 State University Drive

The title of the show is "War Songs: Metaphors in Clay and Poetry From the
Vietnam Experience." A collaboration by Grady Harp and Stephen Freedman
in which there is a marriage between clay and text. Stephen )Potter/Artist)
is expecially known for this technique and for the production of large
sculptural forms... Worth the trip. The show runs till July 18.
Carl Meigs
Brooklyn CT

Frank M. Gaydos on tue 12 oct 99

The following is a review of a Ceramic Art Show in Reading ,Pa.;


The traveling exhibition from the Netherlands called "Artists' Ceramics of
the 20th Century." It comes from the Kruithuis Museum in 's-Hertogenbosch
(home of Hieronymus Bosch), which over the last 45 years has compiled an
important collection of such work.

The collection is traveling while the Kruithuis is being renovated. The
Reading Public Museum is showing 78 ceramic pieces by 23 European artists,
including such modern masters as Pablo Picasso, Henry Matisse, Fernand
Leger, Joan Miro, Andre Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck. The show continues
through Nov. 14.

(The Kruithuis also has collected ceramics by American artists, but these
are traveling in a separate exhibition that is not coming to this country.)

The ceramics exhibition encourages us to consider the status of clay as an
art medium. Historically, ceramic objects usually have been regarded as
functional or solely decorative, but the examples in the museum exhibition
are neither.

Do they represent an art form that artists such as Picasso, Miro and Georges
Braque treated as being equivalent to painting or sculpture? Even the recent
exhibition of Picasso ceramics at the Metropolitan Museum of Art didn't
resolve that question.

Picasso worked in clay over a long period of time and produced thousands of
pieces. But even with him, the feeling lingers that with clay he was
experimenting and playing - amusing himself in his old age.

The Reading Museum show includes a half-dozen Picassos. The one that most
effectively conveys the aesthetic potential of clay as a fine-art material,
especially when worked by artists who lack technical expertise, is a small
vase in the shape of a woman's head.

The Picasso section also includes a large plate and a small bowl decorated
with bullfight scenes and three tiles. These pieces suggest in part what
"artists' ceramics" really means - paintings on three-dimensional objects,
particularly on curved surfaces.

Most, if not all, of the 23 artists are primarily painters. The challenge of
making a decoration accommodate itself to a curved or otherwise irregular
surface probably motivated many of them to try pottery.

Much of the work in this exhibition suggests this sort of trying something
new, and some of it is beautifully done. Raoul Dufy drew figures on vases by
scribing into glazes before they were fired. The glazes themselves are quite
animated; one is blue and white outside, red inside, with a black-and-orange

The most pleasing marriage of form and design occurs in Lucio Fontana's
three minimal, Japanesey vases with partially closed tops. Their plain
cylindrical bodies have been pierced and slashed, a direct reference to his
similarly perforated paintings.

Vlaminck, a prominent member of the fauve movement, produced ceramics that
are quite different from his paintings. Several plates and a vase bear bold,
sinuous, abstract designs, but not in the vivid colors typical of fauvism.
An oval platter is decorated with a very realistic rooster, another
unexpected surprise.

One issue that neither the exhibition nor its catalog makes clear is the
degree to which these artists participated in the fabricating of ceramic
objects. Two Miro sculptures, blocky heads, are certainly by his hand, and
it's likely that Leger's relief plaques also are solo productions.

In many cases, though, it seems that these "artists' ceramics" are in fact
collaborations in which the artisan's contribution is sublimated to that of
the more famous painter, as is often the case with ancient Greek pots. This
is especially evident, for instance, in an array of 10 large, identical jars
by Jan van den Dobbelstein, each decorated differently, and a set of three
bulbous bottles by Mimmo Paladino.

British artist Bruce McLean is one of the few in the show who seem equally
adept and engaged in painting and ceramics. His large, slab-built pitcher
and several boldly composed plates are among the show's standouts.

"Artists' Ceramics" wasn't intended to provoke, but it does raise questions
about the role of artist and artisan, the difference between "painting" and
"decoration," and whether these pieces should be recognized as art because
recognized artists made them or because ceramics is, inherently, an art
There is a catalog of the show available. But, I do not have any details.
You can contact the museum at :

"Artists' Ceramics of the 20th Century" continues at the Reading Public
Museum, 500 Museum Rd., through Nov. 14. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to
5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and from noon to 5
p.m. Sundays. Admission is $4 general and $2 for visitors 4 to 17.
Information: 610-371-5850.Web:

Frank Gaydos
510 Gerritt St.
Philadelphia, Pa.

HTTP:// Featuring an article of The 'Ceramics
of Harding Black'