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CeramicsInsights
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The Museum of Ceramic Art/New York (MOCA/NY) has as its mission to advance the appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of ceramics through exhibitions, hands-on experience, research, education and scholarship. Our vision is to create a world-class museum devoted to ceramics in a world-class city: New York City. Meanwhile, as we work to secure a permanent space for exhibitions and educational programs, we are functioning as a “virtual museum”, helping sponsor exhibitions, lectures and other events to advance the ceramic arts.

“Bodies of Clay: Am I Weird?” is the second exhibition co-sponsored by MOCA/NY as part of its commitment to encourage curators of ceramics to identify and promote both recognized and emerging ceramic artists. Earlier, we had co-sponsored “New Talent: 2005” at the WeissPollack Galleries in New York, Now we are pleased to help make possible “Bodies of Clay”, March 6 – 17, 2006, at the Multnomah Arts Center, Portland, Oregon, in conjunction with the 2006 NCECA conference. "Bodies of Clay" is curated by Nel Bannier, Visiting Artist at the University of Evansville, and Atsumi Fujita, an independent curator and alumna of the University.

As the curators describe it, “weird” is the word that comes to mind when composing an exhibition of figurative work in clay. The word itself has several meanings: suggestive of the preternatural or supernatural; strange or of a strikingly odd or unusual character; and (an archaic meaning), of or relating to fate or the Fates. All of these meanings are evident in the works by participating artists Ivan Albreht, Nel Bannier, Peter Colley, Kenjiro Kitade, Shida Kuo, David Paul Lange, Danae Mattes, Wil McDaniel, Keith Renner, Patricia Rieger, Rob Ruimers, Matt Shaffer, Elise Siegel, Melissa Stern, Barbara Thompson, and Yasuhiro Watarai. According to the curators, “Bodies of Clay” deals with absence, abstraction, fragmentation, and distortion of the human image as a reaction to devastations humans are capable of causing each other. There is a hopeful note as well, as the exhibition also shows an attempt to heal the image/self image through figures in clay less damaged, even weirdly playful.

The exhibition is notable for both the narrative and formal qualities of the works, which run the gamut from highly abstract (Kuo, Kenner, Watarai) to the strongly naturalistic (Thompson). Fragmented body parts (Siegel, Colley, Bannier) and humanoid/animal figures (Kitade, Shaffer, Stern) explore themes of the human response to or complicity in the degradation of nature, conflict (both personal and societal), and the rise of technology (whether for good or ill). The exhibition highlights the extent to which the physicality of clay is supported and extended by other materials such as metal (Bannier, Shaffer), cement (Renner), fiber (Siegel), cardboard (McDaniel), wood (Lange) and even, in the case of Melissa Stern’s Hansel and Gretel, gingerbread.

MOCA/NY is privileged to help sponsor this exhibition, which we believe will be seen by a great many of the 6,000 international visitors expected to attend the 2006 NCECA conference.

Also in March 2006 we expect to launch the MOCA/NY website, which we hope will evolve into an informative and vital service for the clay community. Check the MOCA/NY website for news about upcoming events, interviews with artists, back issues of CeramicsInsights, how to become a MOCA/NY member, Clay for Kids, links to ceramics museums and publications, and more. We anticipate we will issue a “request for proposals” to curators for upcoming NCECA exhibitions; proposal guidelines are currently being drafted. Also, we are actively seeking information and articles for the website. Articles may address ceramics from any place and any period, from ancient to contemporary. Please CONTACT the editor, Patricia Pelehach at ppelehach@moca-ny.org.

Finally, we invite your financial support of our mission and vision as a Founding Member ($1,000), Annual Patron ($250), Annual Supporter ($100) or any amount that is right for you. MOCA/NY is a 501(c)(3) organizations and contributions are tax deductible to the extent provided by law. Make your check out to MOCA/NY and mail to MOCA/NY, 200 East 33rd Street, Suite 17-C, New York, NY 10016. To make a contribution by credit card, please email clay@moca-ny.org or visit our website. With your help, MOCA/NY will today help encourage, support and nourish the clay community and will tomorrow open the doors to a physical home equal to our aspirations.

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MOCA/NY is a tax-exempt 503(c)(3) educational organization devoted to the collection, exhibition, study, and appreciation of ceramics from ancient traditions to spaceage technology. For comments or information about Ceramics Insights, please CONTACT the Editor, Patricia Pelehach, at ppelehach@moca-ny.org.

 

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MOCA/NY announces a gift of works by Henry Varnum Poor.

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Henry Varnum Poor was a multi-faceted artist who made substantial contributions in a number of fields including painting, frescoes, architecture and ceramics. The Board of Trustees of MOCA/NY gratefully acknowledges a recent gift of works by Henry Varnum Poor from the Estate of Jules Billig, a New York collector. The gift consists of twenty-five ceramic objects including wall plates, cups and saucers, footed plates and small handleless pots. Augmenting the ceramic works are two pastels and a painting – all still lifes in Poor’s characteristic style. The Columbia Encyclopedia (Sixth Ed., 2001) provides the following thumbnail sketch of Henry Varnum Poor:

1888–1970, American painter, b. Chapman, Kansas. Poor’s lyrical still lifes, portraits, and landscapes are simply painted in many media. He painted murals in fresco for the Department of Justice and Department of Interior buildings,Washington D.C., and for Pennsylvania State College (now Pennsylvania State University). Poor taught art at Columbia and in Maine. His work is represented in many American museums, including the Whitney Museum and the Metropolitan Museum, in New York City. He was also famed for his work in ceramics. Poor wrote Artist Sees Alaska (1945) and A Book of Pottery: From Mud Into Immortality (1958).

 

Poor was the subject of a comprehensive retrospective exhibition initiated by the Museum of Art at Penn State University in 1983; and the extensive catalogue of that exhibition by Harold E. Dickson and Richard Porter with contributions by Raphael Soyer, Jeanne Chenault Porter, Stuart Frost, Linda Steigleder, and Mark Simon is the basis for the remarks below.

cup In A Book of Pottery: From Mud Into Immortality (H.V. Poor, New York, 1958, pg. 87) Poor stated: “I started doing pottery for the pleasure of decorating it, having something entirely in my control from beginning to end, so that both the object and the images it held would be equally mine.” He began working intensively in ceramics in 1920, fueled by both an aesthetic attraction to the material and financial necessity, as his exhibition of oils and drawings in 1920 at the Kevorkian Galleries in New York had been a commercial failure. His work in ceramics found a ready audience. By the end of 1921, he had dozens of orders through the gallery at Wanamaker’s department store in New York. By mid-1922 he was represented by the prominent dealer Newman Emerson Montross and provided with a large retainer of $200 a month.

Poor decorated his simple forms with underglaze designs, generally in cobalt, manganese, copper or iron, and his work in ceramics reflected his painting preoccupations: human figures including nudes, landscapes and still lifes. Often, the design covers the ceramic form as fully as paint might cover a canvas. The forms themselves are often crude, cracked and kiln-warped, but these seeming defects were celebrated by Poor, and his exhibition at the Montross Gallery was enthusiastically reviewed. He later branched out into majolica, architectural tiles, and pottery-embellished furniture, completing special commissions, such as a ceramic tile mural for the Athletic Club of the Hotel Shelton in New York (destroyed) and entire bathroom suites and dining alcoves.

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In the 1930s, Poor simplified his ceramic decoration, noting in A Book of Pottery: “It has taken me many years to realize how effective empty spaces can be.” His themes became more narrative, literary, and more humorous. While he attempted to restrict the number of commissions he accepted in order to reserve time and energy for painting, he undertook many high profile projects, including contributing to the interior decoration for Radio City Music Hall. Poor, who contributed four lamp bases and a number of vases, was part of a roster including Edward Steichen,Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Stuart Davis, Ruth Reeves,William Zorach and Isamu Noguchi. Later commissions included a ceramic tile mural entitled Grape Harvest for the U.S. Post Office, in Fresno, California and five other tile murals undertaken in the 1950s, including Children in Central Park, completed for the Maurice Wertheim Memorial at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital. Poor continued his involvement in and enthusiasm for ceramics to the end of his life.

The objects that are now part of the collection of MOCA/NY include a charming cup with trailing vegetation design in tones of brown, black, blue and green from 1958; a small pot, 5” high, enlivened with a fluid, skillful drawing of a bird from 1968 and several plates, intended for wall hanging, with leaf (1970) and swan (1966) designs loosely rendered in his playful, naïve style.

MOCA/NY is delighted to welcome these charming examples of works by Henry Varnum Poor into its growing collection. The MOCA Board of Trustees wishes to thank Trudy Jeremais, Alla Priceman and Michael Billig of the Estate of Jules Billig for this major gift.

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MOCA/NY is a tax-exempt 503(c)(3) educational organization devoted to the collection, exhibition, study, and appreciation of ceramics from ancient traditions to spaceage technology. For comments or information about Ceramics Insights, please CONTACT the Editor, Patricia Pelehach, at ppelehach@moca-ny.org.

 

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Is Figuration the wave of the future in ceramic art? Who are some of the next “stars” in this aspect of ceramics?

During a presentation made by Judith S. Schwartz, Ph.D., New York University, at the International Academy of Ceramics meeting in Athens, Greece, August 2002, she considered the promise and development of the next generation of ceramic artists in America. Although she enumerated a number of recent trends among the emerging generation, figuration was arguably the most compelling new development. The following is an excerpt taken from her illustrated lecture.

“There has been an exuberant resurgence of work depicting the body and ceramic tradition has made it possible for some of the best contemporary sculpture to be created in this material. Use of the figure plays an important role as a starting point for examining the self. Perhaps encouraged by photography, the work is detailed, accurate, and sobering."

In recent years there has been a shift in formal university structure concerning education in the visual arts and, more importantly, in the thinking about how artists are to be educated. Today the single medium and its tools of artistic expression are de-emphasized as students are encouraged to think of them as secondary to serving the themes and ideas they wish to develop. Students experiment with a wide variety of technical possibilities as they move freely around the art department working with whatever technique best conveys their ideas.

It is clear that clay has been moved to a point where it is used for content and acknowledged for the issues it can convey. Issues such as colonial/postcolonial, gender studies, and critical theory have radically infiltrated art making. So, for example, we find a conceptual based work using stacks of dishes for visual surprise and altered sensibility or an arrangement of teapots in which spouts are anthropomorphized into sexual engagement. Major themes are reflective of post-modern themes in art generally: gender and identity issues, design, narrative issues, environmental and social concerns, war, politics and the human condition, popular and material culture. Many of these themes are readily investigated through figuration. Some of the most interesting artists working in clay figuration and addressing contemporary concerns are:

KATE BLACKLOCK (left) Influenced by the European genre of porcelain busts, she brings her own perspective and new associations to this traditional figural representation. The rich surfaces act as both decoration and psychological insight to the implied life inside.

 

 

 

 

WILLIAM CATLING (right)
deals with the wrenching subject of suffering but at the same time, affirms the gift of life. He seeks out stories and poems by victims of persecution throughout the ages. The titles of his sculptures are often taken from titles of poems written by Holocaust victims. He uses earth toned mud-like natural surfaces, incorporating fiber, branches, twigs, and wire to show how nature and life are so inextricably linked. Viewers become witness to the suffering.

 

LISA CLAGUE'S figural objects are mythical representations of male/female interactions. Grimacing faces are integrated between humans and animals, which are eerily clad in wire-caged skirts. These humanoid's stories are rich in mythology and nightmarish tales.

SERGEI ISUPOV confronts issues of relationships; romantic unpredictable, passionate, lost found and painful. The body is used for introspection, mind expansion and reflection upon passed experiences. His exquisite intricate drawings present us with power struggles and graphic psychosexual themes as his figures oscillate between the male as spectacle and the female as soul mate.

REBECCA KARDONG makes figures that look like dolls, rigid and inanimate. Yet she animates significant features like the horrifically real eyes and edges of flesh that glimmer with pink tones as if the blood were trying to course through the organs beneath. We project our dehumanization on these inanimate objects.

ANTONIO ROSATI PAZZI presents his figures fully clothed, inherent with memory. The clothes hold stories about lifestyle and the past. He brings the figures historical past across through manipulation of the surface. They are reminiscences of immigrant struggle and frozen moments of time.

JOSEPH SEIGENTHALER’S photo-realistic images confront us wit the stresses of life etched on the faces of those who have known hard times. Man With Switch uses the grotesque to get the viewers attention, forcing an ugly reality on the suffering and weak. His portrait heads assaults us with the pain of real life with all its blemishes, scars and flaws.

TIP TOLAND’S diminutive and incredibly detailed use of porcelain suggests powerful monumental figures with deep psychological introspection. Mastectomized women are rendered old and infirm yet remarkably powerful, with wrinkles, fat, and thin hair. She epitomizes attention to detail and the return to classical anatomy in portraying a Postmodern look at the power of the figure.

novak JUSTIN NOVAK’S (left) figurines are tormented souls exposed to the isolation of an alienated society. Depicted as gaunt and disconnected, his figures are precariously perched and often bloodied by some horrific episode. Referencing the figurine tradition, Novak redirects the viewer's attention to disfigurement and distortion.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MOCA/NY is a tax-exempt 503(c)(3) educational organization devoted to the collection, exhibition, study, and appreciation of ceramics from ancient traditions to spaceage technology. For comments or information about Ceramics Insights, please CONTACT the Editor, Patricia Pelehach, at ppelehach@moca-ny.org.

 

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