Updated Wed, Jul 17, 2013 11:37 am
Ohio Innovators in Clay tells the story of art pottery and studio pottery in Ohio through the display of more than 150 works made by the innovators of the medium from the mid-1800s to the present.
Many of these works have never been exhibited previously in a public setting. No other state can boast as extensive a history of ceramics as an industry and artistic medium as Ohio.
Pottery is central to the history of Zanesville and Cincinnati in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The simple, functional jugs and crocks made in the 1860s and 1870s were succeeded by hand-thrown and hand-decorated vases, in turn succeeded by molded, mass-produced ware.
Cleveland’s Cowan pottery was a guiding addition to the mix in the mid-20th century. These wares were handsome, well-designed, skillfully made, and finely tuned to the desires American consumer. It also won prestigious awards at world’s fairs and other international competitions.
Extraordinary artists formulated slips and glazes, designed, turned and decorated the art pottery of Zanesville, Cincinnati and Cleveland. Frederick Rhead, Jacques Sicard, Maria Longworth Nichols, Kataro Shirayamadani, Frank Ferrell and R. Guy Cowan were innovators in concept and technology.
The exhibition highlights the work of some of these seminal artists and later studio artists. Some of the highlighted artists lived and produced pottery for most of their lives in Ohio. Others trained and taught in Ohio, only becoming famous after they moved on to other parts of the nation.
In the late 19th century, art pottery was made in a factory setting, by teams of artists and artisans. The studio pottery movement evolved out of art pottery through the work of individual artists through changes in technology and American and European culture from the late 1920s into our own time.
Ohio State University’s Department of Clayworking and Ceramics had been founded in 1894 to teach students about industrial ceramics. The Art Ceramics Program at Ohio State University was established in 1926 and was the second such program in the nation.
In 1928, Arthur Eugene Baggs became Professor of Ceramic Arts and Head of the program. Bagg’s students at OSU, such as Eugene Friley, Herbert Sanders, Paul Bogatay, Edgar Littlefield, Charles Lakofsky, and Dorothy Perkins energetically stretched the studio movement, especially after the end of World War II. Several of them remained in Ohio to teach new generations.
The pottery made in Zanesville and Cincinnati in the late 1800s and early 1900s is called "art pottery," though there is no specific style, technique or method of production that characterizes art pottery. The term is applied to pottery that is created with an aesthetic intent from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s.
Art pottery was produced as a reaction against the extravagant materialism of the Victorian era and the impersonal machine age that succeeded it and toward the goals of the Arts and Crafts movement. Gaudy was rejected in favor of handmade, unpretentious, "truth-to-the-materials," and décor related to the natural world.
Studio pottery is pottery created by a single artist or team of two artists, from concept through firing. It may be functional but is often more sculptural than useful. Studio pottery evolved out of art pottery, out of changes in university programs, and an international movement in the studio arts toward art as a vehicle of personal expression.
Several fine studio potters, trained at Cranbook in Michigan or Alfred in New York, moved to Ohio and joined the faculty of colleges or remained as solo artists. They too were catalysts; these include Toshiko Takaezu, Waylande Gregory and Jenny Floch. Viktor Schreckengost’s education in ceramics was at the Cleveland Institute of Art; he served on the faculty of that institution for 76 years.
That innovation remains a primary objective for studio pottery in Ohio, which is seen in works by Jenny Floch of Columbus, Charlotte Gordon of Springfield and Amy Sinbondit of Cleveland.
Ohio Innovators in Clay continues through Saturday, Aug. 31. Visit www.zanesvilleart.org for more information.