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September 11, 2001 to December 20, 2001

Poetics of Clay: An International Perspective

Initiated by the Philadelphia Art Alliance and organized and selected by Helen W. Drutt English, Poetics of Clay surveys the diversity of style and range of ideas in the field of international ceramic art of the post-World War II period. The exhibition includes vessels, domestic ware, sculpture, and an architectural installation by artists from 17 countries. Selected works from the exhibition will travel to the Museum of Art and Design in Helsinki, Finland from January 25 to April 1, 2002.

Poetics of Clay celebrates the achievements of twentieth-century international artists whose freedom and expansion of expression, constant inquiry, and search for personal identity herald their art. The past 50 years in ceramic art have been an extraordinary period of experimentation and risk-taking by artists such as Robert Arneson, Wayne Higby, Ron Nagle, Ken Price, Rudolf Staffel, Peter Voulkos (USA), Gordon Baldwin, Hans Coper, Bernhard Leach, Dame Lucie Rie(Great Britain), Takaro Araki (Japan), Guido Geelen (The Netherlands), Gertraud Möhwald (Germany), among others. The movement in the ceramic world toward fusing with mainstream concepts in art is witnessed through non-functional works, as well as through the continuous commitment to function.

Major support for Poetics of Clay has been provided by: First Union National Bank; The William B. Dietrich Foundation, the Finnish Ministry of Education; and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. Supplemental funding is also provided by the Fels Fund and anonymous donors.
Lenders to "Poetics of Clay:"
Arabia Museum, Helsinki, Finland
Helen and Jack Bershad
Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz
Gail M. and Bob Brown
The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA
The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI
Helen and Leonard Evelev
Joseph Fafard
Lynn E. Farkas
Caroline and Roger Ford
Guido Geelen Diane and Marc Grainer
Sandy and Lou Grotta
Marge and Philip Kalodner
Jane and Leonard Korman
Vicente Lim and Robert Tooey The Makler Family
Regina and Marlin Miller
Dr. Charles W. Nichols
Robert L. Pfannebecker
The Philadelphia Museum of Art
Tina Phipps and Barbara Rice
Kristina Riska
Lynne B. Sagalyn
Dr. Stanley H. Shapiro
Janet M. and Joseph D. Shein
Anna Smuckler
Lenore and Morton Weiss Arthur Joseph Williams
Dina and Jerry Wind
Paula Winokur

Biographical Sketches of Selected Artists:

Robert Arneson (1930 - 1992, California, USA) featured work: "Nasal Flat," 1981 from the collection of Janet and Joseph Shein, Part of Arneson's bold, humorous Self-Portraits series,"Nasal Flat" is hand- built, glazed ceramic and 87 inches high. Arneson is considered the father of the Funk Art Movement. He is a central figure in the history of 20th century ceramics, particularly the ceramic sculpture movement of the West Coast.

Guido Geelen (b. 1961, Thorn , The Netherlands) featured work: "Untitled," 1988 from the collection of the artist "Untitled" is fired clay with a semi-transparent glaze and silver and mother-of- pearl luster. Geelen is known as a sculptor whose unorthodox use of ceramics has won him the Dr. A. H. Heineken prize for art and a solo exhibition at the Stedelisk, Amsterdam in 2000.

Paula Winokur's featured work: "Chaco Memory," a porcelain piece created in 1990, comes from the collection of the artist and was exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1992. Over the past 15 years, Ms. Winokur's work has been influenced by the earth's natural anomalies, such as cliffs, ledges, crevices and canyons, and the effects of wind, earthquakes, and geological shifts. Ms. Winokur states, "I believe that my work is about memory...about places which exist and yet do not exist...a collection of places which I have (perhaps) seen." Ms. Drutt English selected Ms. Winokur's "Chaco Memory" to represent the work of one of Philadelphia's most talented ceramists. Ms. Winokur's inaugural exhibition was held in 1974 at Helen Drutt Gallery. Since then, Ms. Winokur has received numerous awards, grants and fellowships. Her work has been exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the American Craft Museum in New York, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles County Museum of Art and is in their permanent collections.

Gertraud Möhwald (b. 1929, Dresden, Germany) featured work: "Head with Hands," 1992 from a private collection This piece showcases Ms. Möhwald's technique of using shards of discarded ceramics to augment her faces and forms. This is a rare opportunity to view Ms. Möhwald's figurative works. Having lived most of her adult life in the former East Germany, only six of Ms. Möhwald's works exist in the USA.

Rudolf Staffel (b. 1911, Texas, USA) featured work: "Light Gatherer," ca. 1975-78 from the collection of Vicente Lim & Robert Tooey. Staffel is known for his abstraction of form and use of light. His "Light Gatherer" series is composed of translucent porcelain pieces. Staffel is the only American potter to be given a solo retrospective by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1997. Staffel has had two retrospectives in Europe. His work is in major collections throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Guest Curator: 
Helen W. Drutt English is an internationally recognized authority in the field of contemporary craft based in Philadelphia. She is founder/director of Helen Drutt Gallery, located since 1973 in Philadelphia. Ms. Drutt English taught at Philadelphia College of Art from 1972 to 1982 and at Moore College of Art and Design from 1974 to 1987. In addition, she has taught at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu,Wellesley College, and Tyler School of Art, Temple University. Ms. Drutt English was executive director and a founding member of the Philadelphia Council of Professional Craftsmen from 1968 to 1973. She has worked as a curator and art consultant for the American Craft Museum, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan, the Society for Art in Craft, New York/Pittsburgh, the U.S. State Department, the Pittsburgh Center for the Visual Arts, and director of the Moore College of Art and Design Gallery from 1978 to 1980.

Ms. Drutt English has received many awards, among them the Lifetime Achievement in the Crafts award from the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 1993, Fleisher Founder's Day Award from the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1994, an honorary doctorate of the arts from Moore College of Art and Design in 1990. In 1999, she was named a Visionary by the American Craft Museum. In 2001, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Tags: ceramics, installation