Reflecting on Erik Gronborg / Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland

Reflecting on Erik Gronborg exhibition Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland

Reflecting on Erik Gronborg / Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR, USA
August 07, 2012 – February 16, 2013

Selections and Installation by Jeffry Mitchell
Curated by Jeffry Mitchell and Namita Gupta Wiggers

Erik Gronborg employs archetypes of functional ceramic traditions as conceptual vehicles to explore contemporary culture. Combining a 1,000-year-old-continuum of ceramic history with silk-screening, comics, china paint, and commercial glazes, Gronborg’s provocative “crafty” and non-precious approach is a precursor to the “sloppy craft” that is as challenging today as it was in the late 1960s. Working with Seattle-based artist Jeffry Mitchell, selections of Gronborg’s work will be drawn from local public and private collections. Through dialogue and conversation throughout the process with Namita Gupta Wiggers, and an installation designed by Mitchell, the exhibition will explore Gronborg’s use of craft as a tool for social commentary and political satire, and how the work relates to Mitchell’s own explorations of ceramics as a contemporary medium.

Location: Collection Gallery

Opening August 7, 2012 and running through February 16, 2013, this exhibition is part of a series of ongoing explorations in which the Museum invites fresh perspectives on the collection and archive by partnering with artists, creative people, and designers to create public exhibitions. Director and Chief Curator Namita Gupta Wiggers invited ceramic artist Jeffry Mitchell to make selections of Gronborg’s work as a way of fostering a dialogue between the work of these two artists of different generations and as a way of creating conversation around Gronborg’s work.

The Museum is recording conversations between Wiggers and Mitchell about Mitchell’s selections and groupings of the senior artist’s work. These conversations center on the use of craft as a tool for social commentary and political satire, and how Gronborg’s work relates to Mitchell’s own explorations of ceramics as a contemporary sculptural medium. Reflecting on Erik Gronborg, co-curated by Mitchell and Wiggers, features work from the Museum’s collection and from private collections in Portland. The more than 85 works by Gronborg include ceramic, wood, and miniature bronze sculptures.

Erik Gronborg, who moved to the United States from Denmark in 1959, almost immediately began making what he considers functional ceramic works that explore contemporary culture. Combining the 1,000-year-old-continuum of ceramic history with silk-screening, comics, china paint, and commercial glazes, Gronborg’s provocative “crafty” and non-precious approach is a precursor to the “sloppy craft” that is as challenging today as it was in the late 1960s. Gronborg, whose last kiln firing was in 1996, won The City of Paris Award at The Paris Bienale in 1963. Gronborg has spent most of his life as an artist and educator at various institutions in California and also taught at Reed College from 1965-69.

A retrospective of Mitchell’s work, Like a Valentine: The Art of Jeffry Mitchell, opens at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle in October 2012. Mitchell was awarded a Joan Mitchell Grant in 2009 and was a finalist for the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards at the Portland Art Museum in 2008. His work was included in the ICA’s 2009 exhibition, Dirt on Delight: Impulses that Form Clay. Mitchell is represented by Ambach & Rice in Los Angeles.

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