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Pacific Northwest College of Art

Object Focus: The Bowl / Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland

Object Focus: The Bowl at Museum of Contemporary Craft Portland

Object Focus: The Bowl / Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland
March 7 - September 21, 2013

Curated by Namita Gupta Wiggers

The Museum of Contemporary Craft in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) opens the second exhibition in its Object Focus series, Object Focus: The Bowl, on March 7, 2013. This two-part exhibition, featuring nearly 200 bowls, focuses attention on the most commonplace of objects, asking us to consider the ubiquitous bowl in new ways. As artist and PNCA professor M.K. Guth has pointed out, the history of the bowl is the history of civilization. Yet because it holds our cereal, our soup, our tea, our spare change, it becomes so familiar as to be overlooked. Through a variety of engaging activities, Object Focus: The Bowl invites the viewer to connect the work on display in the Museum with the bowl in his or her everyday life. The bowls on view range from the functional to the decorative, industrially produced to handmade, and span the globe geographically and culturally.

Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Common Things, Andrea Zittel’s A-Z Container, and conversations with artists, craftspeople, and designers about how they consider this archetypal form in their own work, inspired the thinking around this exhibition. Deyan Sudjic, Director, Design Museum London, has written in The Language of Things that everyday objects like the table, chair, and lamp have been pulled into the realm of Design to become the Noguchi Table, Eames Chair, and Ingo Maurer Lamp. The bowl, perhaps too commonplace and familiar, has stubbornly refused to be co-opted in this way. 

To invite a deeper consideration of the bowl, Object Focus: The Bowl will feature a number of participatory projects in the Museum and in the community, many of which engage the public in collaboration.

In Part One: Reflect + Respond, March 7-August 3, 2013, Director and Chief Curator Namita Gupta Wiggers has kick-started this process by inviting anthropologists, artists, poets, novelists, curators, and more to write 500 words on a bowl of their choosing from the exhibition. This is only the beginning. Throughout the exhibition, the Museum invites viewers to write their own 500-word pieces on the bowl in an effort to gather 50,000 words by August, 2013. 50,000 words is the average length of a novel, according to the popular National Novel Writing Month project. All contributions will be made available online at www.objectfocusbowl.tumblr.com

There will also be a drawing station in the Museum. Students from PNCA’s BFA in Illustration program will be contributing works on the bowl, and visitors are invited to contribute drawings to the exhibition as well.

The second part of the exhibition, Part Two: Engage + Use, May 16-September 21, 2013, explores the social role of the bowl through artist projects, performances, a symposium, through contributions by the region’s chefs and a project in partnership with Portland restaurants.

Ayumi Horie will create a bowl lending library that will allow visitors to handle handcrafted bowls in the museum and borrow objects to be used at home. For his project, Bowls Around Town, Michael Strand has created traveling trunks that contain a ceramic bowl, digital camera, and recipe book to circulate among some of Portland’s communities that come together around mealtimes. Area chefs, cookbook authors, bakers, and candymakers will make bowl selections and offer recipes at the Chefs’ Table. In addition, there will be a reprisal of Transference by Andy Paiko and Ethan Rose, as well as a series of performances by Craft Mystery Cult. Finally, there will be a symposium on Craft and Social Practice featuring some of the artists featured in Object Focus: The Bowl, planned in conjunction with Portland State University’s Open Engagement Conference.

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  • 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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  • Generations: Betty Feves / Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, Oregon, USA

    Generations: Betty Feves exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR, USA

    Generations: Betty Feves / Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, Oregon, USA
    March 15 – July 28, 2012

    First retrospective of work by important Northwest Artist
    Curated by Namita Gupta Wiggers

    The capstone exhibition of Museum of Contemporary Craft’s 75th Anniversary Year, Generations: Betty Feves is a comprehensive retrospective of work by this important Northwest Modernist ceramic artist. Opened in March 15, 2012, the exhibition includes work from every period of her 40-year career which began with studies under Clyfford Still and Alexander Archipenko, included studies in New York City during World War II, and later, decades in Pendleton, Oregon.

    Feves was nationally engaged and regionally focused. She spoke at the first conference of the American Craftsmen’s Council (now the American Craft Council) at Asilomar, California in 1957 along with Peter Voulkos and Marguerite Wildenhain. At the same time she was deeply inspired by the Oregon landscape; rounded stone and basalt slab forms repeatedly found their way into her pieces. And Feves relentlessly experimented with materials and processes. She dug her own clays from locations like Oregon’s Dead Man’s Pass, sometimes mixing them with brick clay from LaGrande. And she created all of her own glazes from local sources such as grasses and the leaves of locust trees in her own backyard. “Decayed basalt, as she called it, became a routine ingredient in the clay mixture she used for sculpture, giving a texture and quality of color quite unlike any other,” says American raku pioneer Hal Reigger who collaborated with Feves beginning in the 1950s. “I believe one could look at just a small section of the surface of one of her things and know right off who made it.” With Reigger, Feves explored what they called primitive techniques including bonfire firings. Reigger was among those who praised Feves for her structural innovations in her large-scale Modernist sculptures.

    Additionally, Feves was an important catalyst in her community, quietly mentoring and guiding scores of individual artists and musicians while she publicly advocated for the arts as a longtime member of the Pendleton School Board and while serving on the state’s Board of Higher Education. Feves helped to bring the Suzuki violin method to Oregon and to the Pendleton schools and gave private lessons to generations of young musicians. She took on a number of apprentices, but also reached out to younger artists like well-known Northwest painter James Lavadour, introducing him and his work to collectors and dealers. “Betty illustrated to me what an artist’s role is in a community, what an artist does,” Lavadour says. “An artist doesn’t just make art. An artist serves a community in many different ways.” Lavadour went on to found Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts in Pendleton.

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