In relief: German Op-Art Ceramics, 1955-75 / University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson

German Relief Porzellan Exhibition, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson

In relief: German Op-Art Ceramics, 1955-75 / University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson
September 28, 2012 – January 27, 2013

Opening Reception: October 4, 5-7 pm.

A first-ever exhibition of a mid-century movement of German ceramics, known as relief-porzellan, debuts at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. Entitled: In Relief: German Op-Art Ceramics, 1955-75” the exhibition opens on September 28 and runs through January 27, 2013. Both the exhibition and reception are open to the public.

Lawrence Gipe, UA Associate Professor of Studio Art, has been collecting mid-century German ceramics known as relief-porzellan for a number of years. Little was known about these beautiful objects until Gipe undertook to discover the history of their production. This exhibition presents his fascinating research, bringing to light the stories behind the factories and individual artists who created the objects.

"Several years ago, I became aware of this unique genre of German ceramics," says Gipe. "These mass-produced objects were made in "biscuit" porcelain – a matte-white or black finish that leaves the shape unglazed and naked, unadorned in its starkness."

Between the years of 1955-1980, more than a dozen companies were producing the Relief-Porzellan ceramics, mostly vases. Artisans, working in small Bavarian towns, created hundreds of designs, both geometric and organic. Some of the ceramic objects were stamped on the bottoms with the name of the designer and the trademark of the company that produced them. Gipe’s visit to an archive in Selb, Germany, the venerable Rosenthal and Co., offered a trove of journals and files, revealing artists and providing attributions to previously anonymous pieces.

Research for the UAMA exhibition, In Relief: German Op-Art Ceramics, was made possible by a grant from the International Affairs Department at the University of Arizona. The University of Arizona Museum of Art includes more than 6,000 artworks in its permanent collection created by artists from the 14th through the 21st centuries. UAMA is one of only twelve museums in Arizona accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) and one of only 750 museums of the 16,000 museums nationwide with this highest award for excellence in the museum field.

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Johannes Nagel

Johannes Nagel's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View his works

“A vessel has as its reference its own stylistic history and the function. To conserve, or serve out or to present a certain content, is an orientation towards basic human needs. The necessity of producing the form in order to protect contents, meets up with the need to express oneself and to consecrate things and attribute a value to them. From the outset vessels were always designed. The forms emerged from out of the technical capabilities, the practical necessities and a sense for rituals. Rituals are the source of civilization and culture. They bestow a form upon what is lacking in design. A shared meaning develops in them, which goes above and beyond what is merely necessary to life and relates towards what is sublime and greater. From the need to represent and pay homage to this, all art has developed.
The rituals have changed, civilization has brought forth many flowers, art is ever the mirror. The manufacture of vessels is a self-evident cultural technique for all of mankind, and analogue to the role of the figure in sculpture, we can maintain that the ritual is the concrete opposite of the vessel.

And so the „vessel“ can today be a theme, in which function and ritual, our own history and the future may be reflected.
Do rituals relate to something sublime? Can they create a shared meaning? What sort of a function do vessels have today?”

“In the original axiom the form follows the function, as the shape which corresponds to the purpose. The functionality in this work is not related to the potential of a thing to be useful, but rather to the logic involved in its manufacture.
The necessary work steps to make a form mould with which objects can be reproduced in porcelain, are subject to specific preconditions. A sort of three dimensional stereotype has to be made in plaster, which forms a closed volume, or receptacle for the liquid porcelain. The usually many-pieced stereotypes must then be capable of being taken apart, so that the model around which they have arisen, and subsequently the reproduced object shall not be damaged.
I interrupt this process before it is finished and use the stereotype incompletely. The function of (pouring) the form is extended. As a fragment it becomes part of the object and forms a threshold, a border, like the frame which separates the picture from the wall.” Johannes Nagel

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