August 15 - October 19, 2003
Denmark has enjoyed a long and rich tradition of creating ceramics. From the first fashioning and decoration of indigenous clay more than 5,000 years ago, to the current production of a wide range of forms that satisfy a variety of tastes and functions, this art form has played a vital role in Denmark's social and cultural life. From the Kilns of Denmark: Contemporary Danish Ceramics explores the longevity and flexibility of this tradition through the lens of contemporary Danish ceramics, tracing its most classic form—the vessel—as it has reemerged time and again in this century. The exhibition features 96 pieces by 30 of Denmark's most distinguished living ceramists and includes objects of exquisite, technically-adept craftsmanship showcasing a range of ceramic finishes, textures and palettes applied to a variety of functional and abstract forms. It is the first major show of contemporary Danish ceramics in the United States since Danish Ceramic Design, organized in the early 1980s, and features the work of practitioners throughout Denmark, many of whom trained in the famed Copenhagen and Kolding pottery schools.
While many exhibition objects reflect the form's more traditional, functional values, others underscore the medium's capacity for expressing abstract ideas. Among those who produce work true to the container form is Gutte Eriksen. His hand-built, rugged vase forms are glazed in heavy layers that often blur his richly applied cobalt blue and inky black colors. In contrast, Bodil Manz, one of the younger generation artists, builds remarkable high-fired porcelain containers with bright, primary colors that participate in the "Danish Modern" style. Manz enhances his delicate, ceramic walls with pencil-thin, geometric forms that penetrate the translucent interior and exterior surfaces. Nina Hole is a teacher of clay who constructs expressive, roughly-hewn and unpredictable configurations, presenting standing, three-dimensional structures evoking nautical and architectural themes. In contrast, Michael Geertsen assembles multiple industrial forms often evocative of domestic objects, such as the cup and saucer, but eliminates their functionality to underscore their purely abstract, aesthetic values.
While most of the artists are well known in Denmark, few have exhibited in the United States. From the Kilns of Denmark opened at the American Craft Museum in New York, and then traveled to the Fitchburg Art Museum in Massachusetts, and the Mingei International Museum in San Diego. After leaving the Crocker, the exhibition will travel to Racine, Wisconsin, Paris and Berlin.