Regarding George Ohr: Contemporary Ceramics in the Spirit of the Mad Potter

10/05/17
Boca Raton Museum of Art
Works by 19 avant garde ceramics artists on view Nov. 7, 2017 through Apr. 8, 2018
 
Regarding George Ohr: Contemporary Ceramics in the Spirit of the Mad Potter brings together 24 unique, major works by  the iconoclastic, Biloxi-born “mad potter” George Ohr (many not exhibited in public before) along with objects by 16 international contemporary artists working in the same avant-garde vein. These artists similarly exemplify the medium’s cutting edge while providing an illuminating bridge to greater understand Ohr’s work within a contemporary context. Selected artists include Glenn Barkley, Kathy Butterly, Nicole Cherubini, Balbak Golkar, the Haas Brothers, King Houndekpinkou, Takuro Kuwata, Anne Marie Laureys, Gareth Mason, Ron Nagle, Gustavo Pérez, Ken Price, Brian Rochefort, Sterling Ruby, Arlene Shecht, Peter Voulkos, Jesse Wine, and Betty Woodman. Regarding George Ohr is guest curated by the renowned ceramics expert Garth Clark, and on view at the Boca Raton Museum of Art from November 7, 2017 through April 8, 2018.
 
The exhibition begins with an entry gallery containing a select grouping of major vase forms by Ohr from the famous, definitive collection of Marty and Estelle Shack. Largely disavowed as an uncouth, homespun, outsider to the reining members of the Northeastern American Arts and Crafts Movement, Ohr – an eccentric Southerner, and the “playful mustachioed muse for this exhibition”—had been all but forgotten by 1904 when he ceased making pottery. By his death in 1918, his oeuvre had been entirely disregarded until a miraculous turn of events in 1969 lead to the discovery of approximately 10,000 unique works in an attic. Upon rediscovery, Ohr’s radical experimentations sent shock waves through the art establishment, garnering polarized reactions from fiercely divided camps of fervid admirers (avid collectors grew to include Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns) and equally impassioned detractors.
 
Garth Clark describes Ohr’s breakthrough treatment of form as possessing a shocking “sensuality” that bordered on the erotic, with “bright palettes setting one’s eyes alight.” Clark goes on to note, “Their forms undulate and shimmy. Handles dance with disturbing reptilian sinuosity, a floor show preceding the raucous contemporary party that beckons ahead."
 
On combining Ohr’s work with the seminal roster of contemporary artists included, Clark writes, “Ohr always said he would be best understood by future generations… For this exhibition Ohr is a prism that deflects time and links primal creativity. The premise is not that all these contemporary artists were directly influenced by him (some were, but a few had barely heard of him before they were invited to this exhibition). The purpose was a comparative study about artists, all working with the same tool kit Ohr had pioneered, all decidedly irreverent in their processes, and all highly informal in their use of form…Just like Ohr, many of them were highly controversial and faced scorn from critics for changing rules, rejecting symmetrical elegance, bringing raw, rude emotion to the surface.”
 
Clark continues, “For me the excitement was looking at the intense variety that grows out of five to six primary elements. They have enough in common for the exhibition experience to equip the viewers with a visual language that gives access to art that has often been described as impenetrable. It expands and enriches a new critical lexicon that certainly did not exist in Ohr’s day and even today perplexes contemporary writers who use impropriate terms like “sloppy” or “inept” when none of the work is either.”
 
An extensive roster of programming with contemporary master ceramicists, art historians and curators will both accompany and compliment this groundbreaking exhibition.
 
Regarding George Ohr: Contemporary Ceramics in the Spirit of the Mad Potter is made possible by the Museum’s Leadership Fund with major support generously provided by the Estate of Ardele L. Garrod, the Isadore & Kelly Friedman Foundation, Jody H. & Martin Grass, Christine & Peter Raimondi, Dalia & Duane Stiller, Steinberg Global Asset Management, Ltd., and the Museum’s Friends Auxiliary. Additional support is provided in part by the City of Boca Raton; the Board of County Commissioners, the Tourist Development Council and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County; the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture. Additional support is generously provided by our Members and Donors.
 
ABOUT THE ARTIST
 
George Edgar Ohr (July 12, 1857 – April 7, 1918) was an American ceramic artist and the self-proclaimed "Mad Potter of Biloxi" in Mississippi. In recognition of his innovative experimentation with modern clay forms from 1880–1910, some consider him a precursor to the American Abstract-Expressionism movement.
 
RELATED EVENTS
 
Details and tickets online at www.bocamuseum.org/madpotter.
 
Friday, Nov. 10 / 11:00 am–12:15 pm Lecture |12:30–1:30 pm Lunch
Friends Auxiliary: Lecture & Lunch with Guest Curator Garth Clark
Renowned ceramics expert Garth Clark shares his knowledge and experience in the field of contemporary ceramics in this lecture and lunch, followed by a docent-led tour of the exhibition.
Tickets: $75, RSVP required by November 3 at 561.392.2500, ext. 213 or bocamuseum.org/friends
 
Saturday, Nov. 11 / 9:00 am–4:00 pm
Ceramics Symposium
This day-long symposium begins at the Museum with a reception and fascinating tour of the exhibition Regarding George Ohr: Contemporary Art in the Spirit of the Mad Potter. The program continues at Florida Atlantic University’s University Theater with keynote lecturer Garth Clark, noted ceramic historian and curator. The day includes panel discussions with noted ceramic art collectors who loaned works for the exhibition, and leading national and international ceramic artists Anne Marie Laureys, King Houndekpinkou and others. The day concludes with a visit to the FAU Ceramic studio and meeting with the ceramic faculty.
Members: $25; Non-members: $30; Students with valid ID: Free
 
Sunday, Jan. 7 / 3:00–4:00 pm
Lecture: Garth Johnson – Contemporary Clay  
Garth Johnson, Curator of Ceramics at the renowned Arizona State University Art Museum Ceramics Research Center, takes you on a journey to discover trends in contemporary ceramics, including the use of video, performance, social engagement, and “sloppy craft.” Come and ask yourself if George Ohr is turning over in his grave or twirling his mustache approvingly.
Members: Free, Non-Members: $10
 
Saturday, Feb. 17 / 3:00–4:00 pm  
Discussion: Thomas Stollar, Ph.D. – Ceramics
Ceramicist and Florida Atlantic University Assistant Professor Dr. Thomas Stollar demonstrates his processes and discusses his creations.
Free with Museum admission.
 
Tuesday, Mar. 6 / 10:00 am
A Day in Clay
Begin the day with a guided tour of the exhibition followed by a box-lunch lecture with scholar Terryl Lawrence, Ed.D.. Then meet at the Boca Raton Museum Art School for a demonstration with Jeff Whyman of his unique process creating large, expressive, ceramic sculpture.
Members: $30, Non-Members: $40
 
Thursday, Mar. 15 / 6:00–7:00 pm
Lecture: Eugene Hecht – George Ohr: The Greatest Potter on Earth
Eugene Hecht is a professor of physics at Adelphi University and author of many books including George Ohr: The Greatest Art Potter on Earth. He speaks about the artist’s extraordinary works of art.
Members: $5; Non-Members: $10
 
Please contact Kelsey Johnson at kjohnson [at] bocamuseum.org for high-res images and interviews with ​Irvin Lippman, Museum Executive Director, members of our curatorial team, and participating artists.