The Postmodern Pot by Jorum Veiteberg.
Clark, G., Strauss, C., Adamson, G., Burrows, K., & Museum of Fine Arts, H. (2012). The Postmodern Pot by Jorum Veiteberg. In Shifting paradigms in contemporary ceramics: The Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio collection (pp. 123-142). New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
In his article, The Postmodern Pot, Jorunn Veiteberg discusses how postmodernism allows for an anti-hierarchical approach to the styles, designs, materials and aesthetic of modern pottery, and gives a variety of examples of the diverse ways this approach can be expressed by different ceramics artists.
Since this article is fairly long and has several sections, I will structure my summary according to the same sections as the reading.
Vessels – In this section, Vreiteberg talks about the shift in the language used to describe studio ceramics by postmodern artists who wanted to differentiate their artistic work from more utilitarian pottery, and the conflict it created between the two spheres. Artistic potters used the terms “ceramics” and “vessel” instead of “studio pottery” and “pot” to differentiate their work from strictly functional works.
Postmodernism – This section talks about the term Postmodernisn, its basis in the art world, and how and where ceramics fits into this genre. Since Postmodernism can be many styles, the term can apply to a huge variety of different ceramic works.
The Presence of the Past –This section talks about the double meaning that mixing different styles and elements can achieve and how postmodern artists can use this to create powerful and multi-layered messages in their work.
Decoration – This section talks about the exploration of ornament in postmodern works and how it was used as a tool for creating metaphors or a sense of narrative in the work. Because postmodernism borrows from so many different visual sources, decoration can be used to communicate an infinite number if ideas.
Reproduction – This section discusses artists’ use of visual deception to create objects out of clay that replicated other materials. It also deals with the shift from merely producing a single piece to producing in multiples through the use of molds, and how this can enable the artist to explore variations and manipulations of shapes or motifs to vary the meaning of the works.
Postindustrialism – This section deals with the effect that postindustrialism has had on the ceramics industry and how ceramics artists have responded, using modern images and materials appropriated into their work to create dialogues about the changing role of ceramics in industry and society.
“The Post-Modern Age is a time of incessant choosing.”
This quote by Krishan Kumar is from a passage that talks about how postmodern artists can and do draw from any number of sources, old and new, and how this approach sometimes works better and more cohesively than it does at other times. I find this to be especially true today, where so much visual information is easily available to artists. With the internet and other technology, artists can pour through images of art from any time period with ease, and pick bits from each that they can incorporate into their work. An example of this given in the article is Richard Slee’s series exploring the typical English character using the traditional Staffordshire Toby jugs motif juxtaposed with contemporary associations.
Ceramics artist Brendan Lee Tang, whose works I have researched in past semesters, does something similar in his approach. Tang’s work “enters the dialogue on contemporary culture, technology, and globalization through a fabricated relationship between ceramic tradition (using the form of Chinese Ming dynasty vessels) and techno-Pop Art (Tang).”
“Tradition is...nothing more than a discipline’s accumulated wealth of experience. It is how the potter uses tradition that matters, whether it becomes a refuge for imitative historicism or a springboard for innovation.”
This quote speaks to what I wrote previously about how using postmodernism’s multitude of choice in combining elements from numerous historical and decorative sources can either end up producing the most cliché patische or the most brilliant innovation, depending on what the artist intends and the effectiveness of execution.
This reading was an excellent follow up to the one on Modernism. By broadening the palette, so to speak, of what sources and resources can be used to create works, Postmodernism offers today’s ceramics artists a rich and varied pool of styles and ideas from which to create a visual language and context for their work. The openness of the genre also gives artists an art critical language that can encompass the wide variations found within ceramic arts.
Aesthetic: a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.
Anti-heirarchical: Opposing a hierarchy or hierarchies in general.
Archetypal: the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are
copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.
Art deco: the predominant decorative art style of the 1920s and 1930s, characterized by precise and boldly delineated geometric shapes and strong colors, and used most notably in household objects and in architecture.
Artifact: any object made by human beings, especially with a view to subsequent use.
a handmade object, as a tool, or the remains of one, as a shard of pottery, characteristic of
an earlier time or cultural stage, especially such an object found at an archaeological
any mass-produced, usually inexpensive object reflecting contemporary society or popular
culture: artifacts of the pop rock generation.
Ceramics: of or relating to the manufacture of any product (as earthenware, porcelain, or brick) made essentially from a nonmetallic mineral (as clay) by firing at a high temperature; also: of or relating to such a product.
Eclectic: deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources.
Futurism: was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. It emphasized and glorified themes associated with contemporary concepts of the future, including speed, technology, youth and violence, and objects such as the car, the airplane and the industrial city.
Genre: a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.
Juxtaposition: place or deal with close together for contrasting effect.
Motif: a decorative design or pattern.
Patische: an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period.
Poetry: literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature.
Pop art: a style of modern art in the 1960's that used the imagery of mass-media, mass-production and mass-culture.
Post Industrialism: of or relating to a period in the development of an economy or nation in which the relative importance of manufacturing lessens and that of services, information, and research grows.
Postmodern: Postmodern architecture was a response to Modernism and a return to wit, ornamentation, and previous architectural traditions.
Pottery: pots, dishes, and other articles made of earthenware or baked clay, generally for utilitarian purposes. Pottery can be broadly divided into earthenware, porcelain, and stoneware.
Prose: written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure.
Signifier: the form that the sign will take, whether it be a sound or image.
Studio pottery: pottery made by amateur or professional artists or artisans working alone or in small groups, making unique items or short runs. Typically, all stages of manufacture are carried out by the artists themselves.
Super-object: the end toward which effort or action is directed; goal; purpose: Profit is the object of
a person or thing with reference to the impression made on the mind or the feeling or emotion elicited in an observer: an object of curiosity and pity.
anything that may be apprehended intellectually: objects of thought.
Vessel: a hollow container, esp. one used to hold liquid, such as a bowl or cask.
Slee, R. (n.d.). richardslee.com. Retrieved from http://www.richardslee.com/home.html
Tang, B. (n.d.). Brendan lee satish tang. Retrieved from http://brendantang.com/
Implications: The Modern Pot by Glenn Adamson.
Clark, G., Strauss, C., Adamson, G., Burrows, K., & Museum of Fine Arts, H. (2012). Implications: The Modern Pot by Glenn Adamson. In Shifting paradigms in contemporary ceramics: The Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio collection (pp. 36-46). New Haven [Conn.: Yale University Press.
In his article, Implications: The Modern Pot, Glenn Adamson discusses the use of the language of critically established mediums of art to describe ceramics in order to give the medium more credibility in the art world.
Glenn Adamson begins his article by relating the difficulties in discussing ceramics in art criticism due to the lack of a critical vocabulary to describe ceramic works. Because the decorative arts were seen lesser forms of art, ceramics has long been underappreciated as an art form. He cites the work of historian and art dealer Garth Clark as being one of the only people working to establish an art critical vocabulary for ceramics. In his book, American Pottery (1981), Clark drew on language used to describe other more accepted mediums of art, such as painting and sculpture to give ceramics more credence as a true art, rather than a lesser craft. He supported his exposition of the modern pot by citing art critic Clement Greenberg’s response to a symposia on ceramic art, to which he was invited. Greenberg “decline[d] to characterize ceramics as essentially decorative (as having failed in advance, as it were), [and] he also dismissed any prejudice against clay as small minded (Adamson 38).”
From here, Clark sought to apply George Kubler’s ideas of the relationship between form and content to ceramics. He was able to do this using the work of British artist, curator and teacher, Philip Rawson, who studied shared visual language that ceramic vessels throughout time and cultures share in common by showing the morphological relationships in the forms of the various vessels. Rawson also compared ceramics to the established art of drawing, citing the physical features the two mediums have in common to make his point. Both mediums tend to be made of a size that can be held in the hands, and both “depend for their formal effects on the relation between silhouette and mass (Adamson 39).”
Though the analogy between the drawing and ceramics is somewhat counterintuitive, Clark wished to avoid ceramics being compared to sculpture and being thought of as lesser in comparison. He applied the 2-dimensional idea of implied space to talk about the profile of a pot, to discuss the “functional arena in which it engages with the world of everyday (Adamson 41).”
An important aspect of ceramic works, which differentiates it from 2-dimensional work, however, is the tactility of ceramics. Rawson said, “A good ceramic piece offers its physical presence to yours, its shapes and transitions to the shaped and positioned grips and strokings of your hands (Adamson 44).” This quality is not something that can be photographed, but must be experienced personally.
The work of Clark and others was key in bringing ceramics into the dialogue of art criticism, and it opened the door to a whole new way of seeing and talking about the ceramics arts.
“Ceramics can and must be judged by the rigorous visual and aesthetic criteria relevant to this medium”
This quote was important to me because in order to be able to critically talk about ceramics as an art form, one has to take into account the methods and materials used to create the work and their effects on the finished piece. One also has to think about the functionality (or not) of a ceramic piece and how that affects the aesthetic of the work. How a piece interacts with the space it occupies and with the viewer depends on its real and perceived function, and these interactions and associations must be recognized when critically discussing the work.
“The potter’s medium is not clay, but space itself.”
“Form is only ever a matter of implication, especially when it is grounded in functionality.”
For me, these two quotes reference the importance between the work and the space it inhabits, and the dialogue between the two. Because many ceramic forms have physical and social associated functions in the world, these associations can bring different meanings to the interaction between the piece and the space it occupies. The ceramics artist must think about not only the space the piece will occupy, but also the space within the piece, and the functions that space will reference for the viewer.
For years I have worked in mediums, including ceramics and fiber arts, which have long been relegated to the categories of “decorative arts” or craft, and somehow thought to be inferior. The idea that a functional piece cannot be a work of art on the same level as a painting or sculpture has always bothered me, since I know how much creative thinking and skill is involved in the creation of the work. Adamson’s article highlighting the groundbreaking work of Clark and others to bring legitimacy and critical language to ceramics was somehow more validating to me than other art critical approaches I have read in my seminar class.
Antimodernity: The rejection of Modernism, often looking to the past for inspiration for the direction of the future. In regards to ceramics, the fact that a pot is handmade goes against the sleekness of mass-produced modern works.
Drift: the changes that happen within a repetitive series over time.
Functionality: the quality of having a practical use; the quality of being functional
Espace-milieu: space as environment.
Espace-limite: space as limit.
Implied Space: the perception of a 3-D space based on a 2-D model.
Modernism: the set of cultural tendencies in art and associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale changes to Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which were influenced by the industrial revolution.
Morphology: a study of structure or form.
Negative Space: the space around and between the subject
Rhythm: movement or procedure with uniform or patterned recurrence
Tactility: perceptible to the sense of touch; tangible.
“Modernist Painting” by Clement Greenberg
Summary: Clement Greenberg defines Modernism as a movement in which art is used to call attention to art, and in which the operations and works in each different medium are used to determine the effects exclusive to each.
Analysis: In this article, Greenberg talks about Modernism not only connected with art and literature, but also covering “the whole of what is truly alive in our culture (Greenberg).” He sees Modernism as a means of self-criticism within different mediums to find their “pure” forms, based on the unique nature of the medium. For example, in Modernist painting, the picture is seen first as a picture, rather than a collection of images within the picture plane. He also stressed the need for painting to get rid of all the aspects that it might share with sculpture. This lead Modernist painting to become anti-sculptural, removing any tactile associations and becoming purely optical in experiencing them. Instead of creating an illusion of space, like Trompe l’oeil, Modernist paintings have a flatness of the surface, which emphasizes its 2-dimensional qualities.
Greenberg saw Modernism, not so much as a break from the past, but as a means for art to evolve. He felt that each time there was a new phase of Modernist art, it should be thought of as the “beginning of a whole new epoch in art (Greenberg),” and that the changes in art are not a incongruity, but are representative of the continuity of art.
Modernism: the set of cultural tendencies and associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Age of Enlightenment: a cultural movement of intellectuals beginning in the late 17th and 18th century Europe emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition.
Medium (in art): refers to the substance the artist uses to create his or her artwork.
Purity (in art): an untainted and desirable object or reality. In Modernism it meant self-definition.
Trompe-l’oeil: an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that depicted objects exist in three dimensions.
Article: “Notes in the Meaning of ‘Post-‘” by Jean-Francois Lyotard
Summary: In this article, Jean-Francois Lyotard discusses why the ‘Post-‘ in Post-modernism does not really fit the meaning associated with it, and instead suggests that rather than being a movement that is a succession and betterment of the preceding movement, it should be thought of as a procedure of analysis to learn from what has preceded it.
Analysis: Lyotard uses three points to explain his thoughts on why the ‘Post-‘ in Post-Modernism is not an apt description for what is really happening in the movement that followed Modernism. His first point relates to Post-Modern architecture. He says that the word ‘post-‘ would indicate a new direction from before, yet Post-Modern architecture relies on an analogous procedure and is not really a progression forward.
Lyotard’s second point fed off of the first idea, in that the idea of progress “is rooted in the belief that the developments made in the arts, technology, knowledge and freedoms would benefit humanity as a whole (Lyotard),” yet after centuries of these developments, people do not seem to be any happier. He says, “Humanity’s condition has become one of chasing after the process of the accumulation os new objects (both of practice and of thought) (Lyotard).”
His third point pertains to the arts. He suggests that all artists use art as a process of analysis; a way to learn from the works of the past, rather than disposing of it only to recreate it.
Anagogy: a mystical interpretation of a word, passage, or text, especially scriptural exegesis that detects allusions to heaven or the afterlife.
Analogous: comparable in certain respects, typically in a way that makes clearer the nature of the things compared.
Anamnesis: the idea that humans possess knowledge from past incarnations and that learning consists of rediscovering that knowledge within us.
Anamorphosis: a distorted projection or perspective requiring the viewer to use special devices or occupy a specific vantage point to reconstitute the image.
Avant-gardism: a group active in the invention and application of new techniques in a given field, especially in the arts.
Bricolage: in the practical arts and the fine arts, bricolage is the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process. The term is borrowed from the French word bricolage, which refers to amateur repair and DIY maintenance work.
Durcharbeiten: a German term meaning to work out (in detail) or work through something.
Linear chronology: the idea that time might be pictured as a long thread with all the events that we can remember threaded onto it like beads in the order in which they happened.
Post-modernism (in architecture): Postmodern architecture was a response to Modernism and a return to wit, ornamentation, and previous architectural traditions.
Technoscience: a concept widely used in the interdisciplinary community of science and technology studies to designate the technological and social context of science.
Zeitgeist: the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time.