Exhibition of Ceramics by Bauhaus-trained Potter on View at R.I.T.

Aug 20, 2012 - Oct 2, 2012 | Rochester, NY

2012 by A. Sue Weisler Enlarge image (© 2012 by A. Sue Weisler) The German Consulate General Supports:

Titled "Frans Wildenhain 1950-75: Creative and Commercial American Ceramics at Mid-century," the exhibition showcases approximately 150 examples of Wildenhain ceramics.
The pieces on view are principally drawn from a single collection of more than 300 works generously donated to the RIT Archives by Scottsville, N.Y., collector Robert Bradley Johnson.

Thanks to Johnson’s gift, enthusiasts of ceramic arts, pottery collectors, and interested observers alike now have the opportunity to explore a range of works prepared during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s by Wildenhain, an internationally renowned master ceramist. The exhibition showcases an array of ceramics, from traditionally formed bowls and vases to abstract works crafted with a sculpturally-oriented flair.

Free and open to the public, the ceramics exhibition will be held through October 2 simultaneously at the Bevier Gallery and Dyer Arts Center, which both are located on RIT’s suburban campus in Western New York. The Frans Wildenhain exhibit is presented in a first of its kind cross-gallery collaboration between these RIT arts venues.

RIT professor Bruce Austin, who has been writing for the NY-PA Collector for more than two decades, is the organizer of the Frans Wildenhain exhibition. Austin also was the organizer and curator for The American Arts & Crafts Movement in Western New York, 1900-1920, an exhibition (with catalogue) that was held at the Bevier Gallery in 1991 and early 1992. The Frans Wildenhain ceramics exhibit is a thematic extension of that previous show.

Wildehain, the Master Potter whose work is the focus of the current exhibition, had a career as a ceramist that lasted more than five decades. Early on, Wildenhain steeped himself in the world of modernist ceramics while studying under Gerhard Marcks and Max Krehan at the Bauhaus pottery workshop in Dornburg, Germany.
It also was at the Bauhaus where he met his first wife, Marguerite Friedlaender, better known as Marguerite Wildenhain, who like her husband was a famed Master Potter. 2012 by A. Sue Weisler Enlarge image (© 2012 by A. Sue Weisler)

After World War II and years of separation, Wildenhain moved to the United States to rejoin Marguerite who had established herself at Pond Farm, a California artists’ colony. By 1950, Wildenhain left Pond Farm to pursue a teaching career in Rochester, where he dedicated himself to instructing pottery students as a professor and founding faculty member at RIT’s School for American Craftsmen, which now is the School for American Crafts (SAC).

The recipient of the 1958 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship to study the relationship between architecture and ceramic walls, Wildenhain also turned some of his artistic attention to clay murals. His efforts in creating ceramic wall pieces helped him win an unprecedented second Lillian Fairchild Award in 1963 for a 208-foot long frieze he constructed at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, MD.

2012 by A. Sue Weisler Enlarge image (© 2012 by A. Sue Weisler) His creation of these abstract wallscapes was an evolution of art and craft forged over time away from his early experiences as a Bauhaus pottery student during the 1920s. In 1953, only a few years after his arrival in New York and the same year of his first Lillian Fairchild honor, Wildenhain helped launch the innovative retail crafts outlet, Shop One.
The novel business venture on Rochester’s Troup Street was one of only two retail stores that exclusively sold crafts at mid-century. The other venue was America House in New York City.

Notably, many of the works featured in the Frans Wildenhain exhibition were collected by Johnson from the original Shop One. An inspection of the works demonstrate Wildenhain’s dedication first to form and function, as well as a touch of boldness in exterior design, which sometimes includes the absence of glaze, the use of earth tones, and the inclusion of scratches. In this sense, the decoration on Wildenhain’s pottery is visually characterized quite unlike its mid-century modern counterparts.

The era of the pieces on display in the Wildenhain exhibition overlaps both his 20-year teaching career from 1950 to 1970 and his time with the Shop One business venture that operated from 1953 to 1975. In this capacity, the exhibition importantly highlights a significant breadth of ceramic works produced by Wildenhain throughout his career during middle of the 20th century.

Location and time:
Rochester Institute of Technology
College of Liberal Arts
Rochester, NY 14623

20 August through 2 October 2012
The exhibition is free and open to the public.