Catalog - CERAMICS GALLERY- University of Iowa Museum of Art

by Gerry Eskin

Pots & Vessels, the first installation in the recently completed Ceramics Gallery, brings together a wide range of ceramic objects from the collection of the UIMA. This catalogue commemorates the completion of the gallery and this first exhibition. It contains essays discussing the significance of the gallery, the work and includes a sampling of objects from the installation.

Handmade ceramic objects are among humanity’s earliest creations. Even the oldest artifacts were carefully shaped, decorated, and embellished beyond the demands of simple functionality. In the UIMA collection, this high level of artistic achievement is demonstrated in Asian, African, Etruscan, and Native American objects. In the opening essay, Christopher Roy, and Elizabeth M. Stanley Faculty Fellow of African Art History, discusses the significance of these objects.

By the twentieth century demand for handmade ceramics for everyday use was in decline worldwide due to the availability of inexpensive, mass produced alternatives. Nonetheless, the period following World War II saw a renaissance in ceramic art, primarily in the United States. A major portion of the exhibit focuses on ceramic artists who worked during the period 1945-1990 and the vessels, sculpture, and functional objects they produced. Helen Drutt English operated one of the first important ceramics galleries from 1973-2003. She is a leading essayist and taught the first course in the history of the craft. Her essay discusses the significant development during this era.

The gallery’s Iowa section features work by University of Iowa faculty and alumni as well as woodfired work, a specialty of the university. Clary Illian, ceramic artist, author, and Iowa alumnus, discusses the Iowa connection in her essay.

The gallery contains a glass enclosure in the northwest corner. This is a study room where students of ceramics can view objects up close and can handle them. Howard Collinson, Director of the UIMA considers this space in his essay.

Thanks are to due to the numerous artists and collectors who donated objects to make this exhibit possible. Although the list of contributors is too long to print here we must single out Joan Mannheimer, whose generous gifts provided the backbone of the contemporary collection.

In selecting the over 300 objects for this initial display I had full access to the large and diverse collection of the Museum as well as the generous support of many artists and collectors. The space I had to work with was large and flexible. Still many meritorious objects could not be displayed in the first exhibition. In time this will be remedied as other exhibitions are mounted in this special space dedicated to the ceramic arts.