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The Scholar's Eye: Contemporary Ceramics at Houston's MFA
Lucio Fontana, Italian, born Argentina, 1899-1968, Concetto Spaziale, 1968. Porcelain. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio Collection. © Fondazione Lucio Fontaana.

HOUSTON.- New York-based scholars and gallerists Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio have been leaders in the ceramic field for over 25 years, assembling one of the most important private collections of contemporary ceramics in the world. In the spring of 2007, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, acquired their collection of over 375 objects, as well as the accompanying library and artist archive. The acquisition places the MFAH in the forefront of museum ceramic collections worldwide and positions the MFAH as a major center for the research of contemporary ceramics. The Scholar’s Eye: Contemporary Ceramics from the Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio Collection, organized by Cindi Strauss, MFAH curator of modern and contemporary decorative arts and design, opened at the MFAH on May 18, offering audiences a first look at selected highlights from this extraordinary collection. Approximately 40 international works sre on view, ranging in aesthetics from the functional to abstract, sculptural to narrative.

“Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio’s ambitious work as gallerists, educators, and scholars has transformed the entire ceramics field, challenging and revolutionizing the public’s perception of the medium,” said MFAH director Dr. Peter C. Marzio. “Over the course of three decades, Mr. Clark and Mr. Del Vecchio have also used their expertise to build one of the finest ceramics collections in the world. It was a major coup for the museum to acquire this collection, and we are pleased to present a portion of it to the public for the very first time.”

“The Scholar’s Eye illustrates the breadth of the Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio collection, introducing Houston audiences to the power and beauty of ceramic art and design,” said Strauss. “The marvelous diversity found in the field is highlighted by outstanding works on view, dating from the 1940s to today.”

The collection encompasses a global roster of established and emerging artists working in the 20th and 21st centuries with a specialty in the ceramic arts, as well as painters and sculptors who also worked in clay. Artists represented are from the United States, England, Canada, Ethiopia, South Africa, Japan, China, Taiwan, Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, France, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Latvia, Hungary, and Turkey.

The collection includes a diverse range of aesthetics from abstract and sculptural forms tonarrative works. Installations, prints and drawings by many of the artists, and a group of work whose roots are in industrial design are important subsets to the overall collection. The core of the collection comprises American material that traces the aesthetic and technical developments of the past four decades through in-depth representation of artists such as Ralph Bacerra, Marek Cecula, Ken Ferguson, Anne Kraus, Ron Nagle, Richard Notkin, and Beth Cavener Stichter. Important works by Laszlo Fekete, George Jeanclos, Kitamura Junko, Geert Lap, Bodil Manz, Lawson Oyekan, Richard Slee, and Akio Takamori are also represented.

Garth Clark is an internationally recognized scholar, author, and collector of modern and contemporary ceramic art. He has written or contributed to over three dozen books, including Shards: Garth Clark on Ceramic Art; Gilded Vessels: The Life and Art of Beatrice Wood; and The Artful Teapot. Among the many honors and awards accorded him are the Mather Award for art criticism given by the College Art Association, the Art Critics Award of the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Art Book of the Year Award from the Art Libraries Society of North America for his volume on George E. Ohr.

Together with Garth Clark, Mark Del Vecchio is a founding director and partner of the Garth Clark Gallery for ceramic art in New York City. Del Vecchio has been an influential dealer in ceramics for over 30 years and is the author of the critically acclaimed book Postmodern Ceramics. He was the recipient of the American Craft Museum’s Visionaries Lifetime Achievement Award, and was co-chair of the organizing committee for the 1999 Ceramic Millennium Leadership Congress in Amsterdam.

Selected Objects from The Scholar’s Eye
• Stack, 1973, Peter Voulkos
American ceramic sculptor Peter Voulkos is widely recognized as the leader of the post-war American ceramics revolution. Voulkos brought a high level of experimentation to his work, inventing an unstructured style of forming and marking clay that garnered him comparisons the Abstract Expressionist painters.

• Parisienne Chainsaw Massacre, 1982, Adrian Saxe
A California artist, Adrian Saxe interprets and critiques social and cultural conventions though his ceramic forms. His ornate vessels often feature unexpected embellishments and juxtaposition, as can be seen in Parisienne Chainsaw Massacre.

• Six Mexican Pieces. Biting., 1993, Andrew Lord
Andrew Lord is a British-born, New York-based sculptor, known for roughsurfaced ceramic objects that distort traditional forms. The suite of six pieces demonstrates his use of exaggeration and pock-marked, exaggeratedly worked sculptures.

• The Achaians-Xanthos from the series Trojan War, 1993-1994, Sir Anthony Caro Anthony Caro is one of the most influential sculptors in post-war Britain. His Trojan War series consists of more than 40 pieces that illustrate Homer’s The Iliad. The Achaians-Xanthos is a made from stoneware and steel, and depicts one of the two immortal horses which drew Achilles’s chariot in the story.

• Balustrade Relief Vase 98-12, 1998, Betty Woodman
Betty Woodman is an internationally recognized American ceramics artist who explores traditional vase or vessel forms. In Balustrade Relief Vase, Woodman has created earthenware forms to fill the negative space of an imaginary vase. Her wall reliefs reveal the influence of the Baroque architecture of Italy.

• Vessel, 2001, Bodil Manz
Danish artist Bodil Manz typically works in cast porcelain to create paper-thin, modern pots, and is recognized as a master of eggshell porcelain. Manz decorates her vessels with related geometric patterns on the inside and outside, allowing the shadow of one design to enhance the other.

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