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Great Pots: The Vessel as Art, 1900-2000

March 9 - May 19, 2006


(above: Adrian Saxe, Los Angeles, CA, Antelope jar, 1979, thrown and carved porcelain, stoneware. The Newark Museum)

One hundred years of international ceramic masterworks will be featured in Great Pots: The Vessel as Art, 1900-2000, on view from March 9 to May 19, 2006 at The UBS Art Gallery (1285 Avenue of the Americas, New York City). A comprehensive survey of modern and contemporary ceramics, the exhibition will examine the conceptual and stylistic legacy of ceramics in the 20th century while exploring the ceramic vessel as art object. Organized by The Newark Museum, Great Pots will feature works from their renowned collection of international ceramics, which began when the museum was founded in 1909.

The exhibition will bring together approximately 164 ceramic works by 143 artists, including pieces by leading ceramists Peter Voulkos, Grayson Perry, Beatrice Wood, Maria Martinez and Shoji Hamada. Great Pots will address sculptural vessels, which focus on the shape and surface of the pot, as well as painterly works, which approach the pot as a "canvas" to be decorated. Displayed in chronological order within each section, the ceramics on view will be organized into three conceptual categories -- Beautiful, Useful and Wise Pots. Beautiful Pots will focus on surface decoration and the essential beauty of sculptural and painterly forms, while Useful Pots will address functional works of ceramic art, including bowls, vases and teapots. Wise Pots will highlight works imbued with wit, humor, spirituality or rebelliousness, as well as "impossible" or fantastical pots that defy function.


Beautiful Pots

Exhibition highlights will include simple forms with elaborate decorative surfaces, ranging from Rookwood and Marblehead art pottery from the 1900s to stunning examples of 1920s Studio Pottery and Native American Pueblo masterworks. William Hunt Diederich's 1925 earthenware bowl features a dynamic painted image of St. George battling a dragon, and Beatrice Wood utilizes the surface of a large earthenware plate as a canvas for a Cubist-inspired painting of two musicians (c. 1940-47). Modernist influences are also evident in Maria Martinez's Bowl with Plumed Serpent (c. 1920-30), including stylized geometric decoration, simple shapes and a sleek polished surface. Shoji Hamada's stoneware Plate with Painted Decoration (c. 1940-50) features abstract floral images influenced by Asian folk art.


Useful Pots

Great Pots presents a variety of utilitarian ceramics that are works of art as well as functional objects. German designer Paul Wynand transformed a tobacco jar into a striking modernist design statement in the early 1920s. Hans Coper's thrown stoneware Tripot Vase (1958) is both sculptural and useful, with a form derived from 18th-century Chinese double vases. The varying heights of the vessels also suggests ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, which incorporates three heights of foliage. Covered Jar with Flattened Sides (1952), one of Peter Voulkos' earliest signature "cookie jars," features bold calligraphic images. Shimizu Uichi, named a Living National Treasure in Japan, created an austere globular teapot with a black oil-spot glaze in the 1970s, embodying the ongoing Japanese reverence for functional vessels.


Wise Pots

The exhibition also highlights works that display wit or humor, evoke a sense of spirituality, or display a rebellious challenge to traditional ceramics. Adrian Saxe's Antelope Jar (1979) pays ironic homage to the cult of porcelain, whimsically celebrating the Chinese and European ceramic traditions. Magdalene Odundo's Vessel with Black Surface (1995), which exudes a rhythmic grace, shows influences ranging from traditional African ritual vessels to ancient Greek pottery and Southwestern Indian wares. Grayson Perry's Essex Man (1999) simultaneously employs and subverts ceramic tradition to comment on the dark side of suburban life. Perry's title refers to Edward Bingham, a renowned 18th century potter who worked in Perry's hometown of Essex, England. This work juxtaposes transfer-printed photographs of manicured cottages with stark images of perverse behaviors possibly happening inside.


The Newark Museum

Founded in 1909 by famed museologist John Cotton Dana, The Newark Museum today features eighty innovative galleries of world-class art and the sciences. One of the most extensive collections of American art-paintings, sculpture and decorative objects spanning three centuries-comprises the Picturing America galleries. In addition, the Museum contains impressive holdings of African art, Classical art, European and American decorative arts, and the arts of Asia, including the largest collection of Tibetan art in the Western Hemisphere. The Museum complex is also made up of the Victorian Ballantine House, a National Historic Landmark built in 1885, the Alice and Leonard Dreyfuss Planetarium, a 5,000 square-foot natural science exhibit Dynamic Earth: Revealing Nature's Secrets, a Mini Zoo, the Alice Ransom Memorial Garden, site of contemporary outdoor sculpture, an authentic one-room school house (circa 1784), and the Newark Fire Museum.

The Museum is also unique in its historic commitment to community access, devoting a substantial portion of its facilities and budget to education and family programs. Nearly 600 participants are served by the Educational Loan Collection and traveling exhibitions, making The Newark Museum one of the leading educational institutions of its kind in the country. For more information, please visit www.NewarkMuseum.org.

Great Pots: The Vessel as Art, 1900-2000 is made possible by UBS.


(above: Anne Kraus, Short Hills, NJ, Endurance bowl, 1985, slipcast white stoneware with applied glazes. The Newark Museum)


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