The Denver Art Museum (DAM) takes a closer look at the medium of clay in its summer exhibition Marvelous Mud: Clay Around the World. Celebrating the prolific and diverse material, Marvelous Mud reveals how clay has shaped culture, creativity, science and industry over time and around the globe. The museum-wide exhibition explores one major medium and illustrates its diversity and history through fascinating stories that span time and geographic location. Marvelous Mud is on view June 11 through September 18, 2011, and offers a different way for visitors to experience the DAM’s programs and collections.
Marvelous Mud features seven exhibitions throughout the Hamilton and North buildings, hands-on and live programming with artists and experts and indoor and outdoor creation stations that allows visitors to discover the medium.
The exhibition kicks off with a weekend of celebration. Saturday and Sunday will feature lively onsite activities. Ceramic artist Bob Smith will perform a demonstration of raku firing on the plaza. This visual pyrotechnic firing process takes pots from the kiln at maximum temperatures. The pots are then put into containers of sawdust that produce a thick black smoke that adds to the finish of the vessel. Families can also explore the Mud Studio hands-on activity area and participate in artmaking projects at new in-gallery Hotspots.
Marajó: Ancient Ceramics at the Mouth of the Amazon, located in the Martin and McCormick Gallery on level two of the Hamilton Building, focuses on the elaborately decorated red, white and black earthenware ceramics from the people who occupied the Brazilian island of Marajó from A.D. 400 to 1300. Much of the island is flooded each year by rising river waters, so its inhabitants built large artificial mounds to support dwellings, ceremonial spaces and cemeteries. Adorned in an ornate style with modeled, carved and painted human faces and figures, reptiles, snakes and birds, Marajó ceramics were used for feasting, ceremonial life and funerary offerings. Despite their artistic sophistication, ancient Amazonian ceramics are largely unknown to the public. Marajó is the first exhibition devoted to this topic in the United States. Curated by Margaret Young-Sánchez.
Overthrown: Clay Without Limits, located primarily in the Anschutz Gallery on level two of the Hamilton Building, brings together regional, national and international artists who push the boundaries of clay to create large-scale installations that respond to the dynamic architecture of the Daniel Libeskind-designed Hamilton Building. The majority of the 25 participating artists will create site-specific artworks. Highlights include a large-scale ceramic and found object sculpture by Linda Sormin that utilizes the colossal slanted wall in the Hamilton Building atrium; an installation of clay flakes, each around 300 pounds, by Neil Forrest; a 23-foot chandelier by Jeanne Quinn; and a tiled enclosure with freestanding elements by Anders Ruhwald. Overthrown also includes a sampling of smaller ceramic objects that acknowledges that other means, besides size, can challenge expectations of the material. Curated by Gwen Chanzit.
Blue and White: A Ceramic Journey, located in the William Sharpless Jackson Jr. Gallery on level five of the North Building, conveys the popularity of blue-and-white pottery throughout the centuries in different parts of the world. The technique of creating blue-and-white ceramics was a great innovation of Chinese ceramic history and they became a vital component of China’s export trade. The exhibit will feature objects from early periods of blue-and-white ceramic production to present day examples.
Dirty Pictures, located in the Delisa and Anthony Mayer Gallery on level seven of the North Building, shows the varied ways photographers have depicted mud in their work. Whether as media for photographic construction, as the substance of metaphor or as a mark of human interaction with the earth—mud, clay, dirt and soil have made prominent appearances in the work of many photographers in the past 35 years. Featuring pieces by artists including Dieter Appelt, Zeke Berman, Jungjin Lee and Joel Sternfield, this exhibition aims to both examine these differences and draw connections between the varied uses of these materials in contemporary photography.
Focus: Earth and Fire, located primarily on level four of the Hamilton Building, showcases ceramic work in the DAM’s modern and contemporary art collection, as well as paintings that respond to earth and fire. In recognizing that there are as many ways of responding to earth and fire as there are creative ventures, our presentation takes the widest approach to this theme and celebrates the myriad of artistic responses to rugged mountains, powerful mudslides and volcanoes, blazing forest fires and even the hot sunlight pouring down from billions of miles away. Work by Colorado artist Vance Kirkland will be featured in the third level Chambers and Grant Gallery, showing the artist’s early watercolor scenes from nature, as well as his late paintings that responded to the sublime energy of heat, fire and the great mysteries of space. Curated by Gwen Chanzit.
Mud to Masterpiece: Mexican Colonial Ceramics, located on level four of the North Building, explores the era of global trade and its effect on traditional Mexican earthenware, Chinese porcelain and Mexican majolica. Between 1521 and 1821, the ancient Mexican ceramic art of unglazed, low-fired earthenware was exported to Spain where it became quite fashionable. In return, Spanish artists introduced the potter’s wheel and high-fired hard glazes to Mexico, producing a pottery known as majolica. Trade brought Chinese porcelain to Mexico and its decorative motifs influenced both native earthenware and Mexican majolica. More than 30 pieces of Chinese porcelain, Mexican earthenware and Mexican majolica will be exhibited alongside Mexican colonial paintings that depict the use of ceramics in daily life. Curated by Donna Pierce.
Potters of Precision: The Coors Porcelain Company, located on level two of the North Building, displays porcelain labware produced by the Golden, Colo., company. The Coors Porcelain Company, now known as CoorsTek, creates specialized scientific forms—crucibles, beakers, evaporating dishes—that have remained virtually unchanged since their earliest iteration. Beauty and function exist simultaneously in vessels that serve scientists’ precisely stated needs. Curated by Darrin Alfred.
Marvelous Mud is organized by the Denver Art Museum. Exhibition support is provided by the Adolph Coors Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District and the generous donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign. Promotional support is provided by 5280 Magazine, CBS4 and The Denver Post.
The Denver Art Museum is located on 13th Avenue between Broadway and Bannock Streets in downtown Denver. Open Tuesday–Thursday and Saturday Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; closed Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. General admission for Colorado residents: $10 adults, $8 seniors and students, $3 for visitors 6-18, free for children 5 and younger. Admission for non-Colorado residents: $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, $5 for visitors 6-18, free for children 5 and younger. The Cultural Complex Garage is open; enter from 12th Avenue between Broadway and Bannock or check the DAM website for up-to-date parking information. For information in Spanish, call 720-913-0169. For more information, visit http://www.denverartmuseum.org/ or call 720-865-5000.