5 About Face: Contemporary Ceramic Sculptureexamines the lineage and influence between the revolutionary generation of ceramic artists of the 1950s and ‘60s working in the figural genre and artists working today. Bringing together approximately 55 objects by emerging, mid-career, and master artists who work within a figurative clay tradition the exhibition investigates how history and place inform the work of contemporary ceramists. Through their work, these artists use the human form as a vehicle to explore issues relating to the body, various social and cultural concerns, and concepts relating to the female/male gaze. Curated by Jennifer Jankauskas, Ph.D., Curator of Art, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Alabama
Additional Curatorial Information About Face: Contemporary Ceramic Sculpture highlights the work of emerging, mid-career, and master artists based in the United States who work within the figurative tradition with clay. Placing works by historically important ceramic artists alongside those of their contemporary successors allows the narrative of American figurative ceramics to unfold. Focusing on clay objects that highlight the human form, the exhibition and catalogue elucidate trends in one of the first truly American contributions to the ceramics field—that of innovative figurative clay sculpture.
Beginning in 1950s California and then spreading up the West Coast, American ceramics experienced a period known then as the “revolution in clay.” Ceramic artists, inspired by Japanese Zen philosophies, jazz music, and the gestural expressions of Abstract Expressionist painters, began exploring the sculptural and nonfunctional possibilities of clay, turning the medium in a new, improvisational direction that broke free from traditional vessel forms and European values. Avant–garde ceramic artists embraced abstraction to express emotional content, pushing the boundaries of the medium further than ever before and opening it up for future developments.
In the 1960s and 1970s, contemporary artists such as Robert Arneson, Jack Earl, and Viola Frey, among others, began working with the human form. While the human figure has been a staple for exploration in sculpture throughout the ages, these artists used clay in innovative ways to address human experiences, emotions, and concerns. Celebrating this approach, New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art featured Robert Arneson and five additional artists in the 1981 seminal exhibition, Ceramic Sculpture: Six Artists. While this exhibition was well received by the public, it opened to poor critical reviews. Although controversial for its lack of representation with women artists and the way the work was exhibited, it is considered a breakthrough exhibition as it established clay as fine art and recognized the makers as true artists. The artists included in that exhibition, many of them teachers on the West coast, provided inspiration to younger sculptors and continue to influence many contemporary artists around the nation today.
About Face: Contemporary Ceramic Sculpture builds upon the Whitney’s groundbreaking exhibition while exploring the lineage and influence between the revolutionary first generation of artists working in the figural genre and artists working today.
Artists Wesley Anderegg, Chris Antemann, Robert Arneson, Rudy Autio, Russell Biles, Cynthia Consentino, Cristina Córdova, Miriam Davis, Jack Earl, Sean Erwin, Viola Frey, Alessandro Gallo, David Gilhooly, Georgia Jones Godwin, Gerit Grimm, Sergei Isupov, Howard Kottler, Curt Lacross, Michael Lucero, Walter McConnell, Gerardo Monterrubio, Jim Neel, Clifton Pearson, Andrew Raftery, Alan Rosenbaum, Akio Takamori, Tip Toland, Jason Walker, Kurt Weiser, Beatrice Wood, and Sun Koo Yuh.
Venues Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, AL | February 2 - May 12, 2019 Art Museum of South Texas, TX | Jan. 24 – Apr. 17, 2020 Figge Art Museum, IA | June 20 - Aug. 30, 2020
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